Chandrayaan 3: Even though Chandrayaan-3 is still perpetually sleeping on the Moon, people are still in awe of the spacecraft every day as new scientific discoveries are made possible by it. The most recent information is that Chandrayaan-3’s nuclear technology was sent to the Moon.
The Nuclear Heart of Chandrayaan-3
The Times of India reported that nuclear technology powers the Propulsion Module of Chandrayaan-3, which launched the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover to the Moon. The module is presently in lunar orbit and has two radioisotope heating units (RHU) on board that have a power output of one watt. Future nuclear-powered missions with longer lunar stays are made possible by this heating unit’s operation. However, what exactly is a radioisotope heating unit and what is the purpose of one?
Radioisotope Heating Unit (RHU) Fundamentals
An apparatus known as a Radioisotope Heating Unit (RHU) uses the energy released during the radioactive decay of a particular isotope to produce heat. Installed on a spaceship, a RHU’s main purpose is to give various parts and equipment on board a dependable, long-lasting supply of heat so they can stay warm in the frigid space. It’s crucial for missions operating in frigid climates, like space or other celestial bodies, where conventional heating techniques like electrical heaters could not last. Two of these units were installed in the Propulsion Module orbiting the Moon for demonstration and experimental purposes. Now, Isro wants to expand on its achievements.
The Role of Radioactive Isotopes in RHUs
A radioactive isotope, usually plutonium-238 (Pu-238) in the form of plutonium dioxide (PuO2), is present in the RHU. With time, this isotope decays. Because the decay process is exothermic, a known amount of heat energy is released during the decay process. This heat is captured and used to keep the spaceship or certain parts, like fuel tanks, crucial electronics, or scientific instruments, at a consistent temperature.
Prolonging Space Missions with Radioisotope Heating Units
Using a Radioisotope Heating Unit extends the mission’s life, which is a major benefit. For instance, Plutonium-238, which has a half-life of approximately 87.7 years, can serve as a reliable source of heat for many years. Thus, Radioisotope Heating Unit is a smart choice when sending a mission that might take several decades to complete. RHUs also have the benefit of being extremely dependable due to their lack of reliance on external power supplies or moving parts. They are therefore perfect for unmanned missions requiring extended exposure to hostile environments.