Other types of tech development
Long-duration space missions beyond Earth’s orbit are not always able to rely on solar panels, so they often require a more compact and powerful source of energy. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) were developed to provide this power source. RTGs generate electric power from the heat produced by the natural decay of small amounts of radioactive material, typically plutonium-238 isotopes.
There is a wide range of technology development in the public and private sectors related to space infrastructure. One of the largest efforts is within NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT), an office created by NASA in 2010 to centralize and coordinate the agency’s technology development efforts.
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In-space activities include research and development services, manufacturing, satellite refueling, and orbital debris clean-up. NASA’s Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) is helping fund development of vehicles capable of carrying payloads on brief trips into space.