The next generation of planetary bases will have an increasing need for electrical power capability to support advanced communication equipment, life support systems, and scientific experimentation. This power is expected to exceed the 100kW range of the ISS, currently the highest power space-based electrical system in existence. Power conversion is an important element in any large-scale electrical distribution system, required to control the flow of power and provide galvanic isolation barriers to improve safety, robustness, and electromagnetic compatibility. The terrestrial power electronics industry is currently making dramatic improvements in power density and efficiency, through the use of wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technology. Especially critical to planetary base applications, WBG semiconductors allow higher switching frequencies, thereby reducing the weight of an isolation transformer and enabling the target of >2kW/kg power density, as well as promising an inherently higher robustness against space radiation.
Over the last five years, PCKA has employed WBG devices in power conversion applications with voltages ranging from 28–750 Vdc and power levels ranging from 2–440 kW. These applications have focused on military vehicle and aircraft power systems, which have many of the same objectives as a space-based application. However, taking this technology into a planetary surface power application requires overcoming challenges such as temperatures below –100C, bombardment from space radiation, and the harsh impact of dust and regolith. Many of the state-of-the-art components utilized in the existing designs do not have direct radiation hardened substitutes and will require additional development and test. In this proposed effort, PCKA will adapt one of its WBG isolated dc/dc converters to meet the requirements of a planetary base application. This high-impact technology will then be demonstrated over the course of the SBIR program.
The target applications for the isolated power converter development are lunar and planetary lander base power systems. There are additional potential applications in space-station power conversion, such as the Lunar Gateway system, in which high-power dc-dc converters are also required.
Military and commercial satellites have increasing power requirements with similar requirements to lunar and planetary landers. The isolated dc-dc converters developed on this program would have potential application for any space-based power system with 10’s to 100’s of kW.