While these activities were just a test, Green said the DOE should eventually be able to scale up plutonium-238 production to meet NASA's needs.
"We anticipate by the end of the calendar year that we'll have a complete plan from the Department of Energy — and not only a schedule, but costs — on how they'll be able to satisfy our requirement of 1.5 to 2 kilograms per year," Green said.
NASA and the DOE are also working together to develop a new power system called the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG), which will basically be a more efficient version of the trusty RTG.
Two flight-ready ASRGs should be completed by 2016, at which point NASA will put them into storage until selecting them for a mission, Green said.
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