National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center


  • Provides the expertise needed for research, technology development and aerospace flight projects for power subsystems and overall power system designs.
  • Spans energy conversion systems from solar, thermal, electrochemical and nuclear sources for both primary power and storage.
  • Includes power management and distribution and engineering for power systems development.
  • Power systems are applicable across a wide range of programs and projects and support activities from conceptual design to flight system development.
  • Provides all research, discipline engineering and system analysis capabilities needed for power systems and critical subsystems technologies, and develops innovative design and analysis tools, techniques, and capabilities to maintain and enhance Glenn Research Center’s leadership in power technology.

Chief: Randall B. Furnas
Deputy Chief: Robert M. Button

Technical Focus Areas


  • Provides discipline engineering for avionics hardware, including flight computers, data busses, printed circuit boards, and programmable logic devices (PLDs).
  • Performs end-to-end avionics system architecture definition, integration, analysis, and evaluation, as well as specification, design, development, procurement, test, and verification of components associated with these disciplines throughout all phases of the project/program life cycle.
  • Primary tools applied to this work include commercial electrical design, analysis packages, and development tools for PLDs.
  • Co-operates the Avionics/Software Laboratory for developing and testing breadboard and brassboard hardware.

Diagnostics and Electromagnetics

  • Performs team and technical leadership for flight hardware design, development, integration, qualification and acceptance testing.
  • Designs, develops and certifies Electrical Ground Support Equipment and test support equipment.
  • Develops validated models and analyses for power management and distribution systems, battery management systems and electric motors.
  • Also conducts electrical engineering design, development, test and integration of analog and digital circuits, data acquisition systems, signal conditioning and processing, image analysis and sensors.
  • Conducts electrical engineering requirements analysis and hardware design for Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) and Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) compliance. Manages and operates the EMI Laboratory to provide space flight hardware qualification and final acceptance testing.
  • Responsible for requirement definition, technical trade and feasibility studies, design, development, test and analysis associated with these disciplines throughout all phases of the project/program life cycle and Electrical, Electronic, and Electromechanical (EEE) parts engineering.
  • Manages and operates the Optics Laboratory for developing and testing breadboard and brassboard hardware.

Photovoltaic and Electrochemical Systems

  • Maintains primary technical expertise in all areas of advanced photovoltaic (PV) devices, solar array technology, electrochemical energy sources, and energy storage systems in support of NASA missions.
  • Conducts research and technology development on advanced space solar cell designs, PV blanket/component technologies, novel solar array concepts, photovoltaic-like energy conversion concepts (i.e., thermophotovoltaic, alphavoltaic, and betavoltaic devices), lithium-based and alkaline-based battery modular systems, electrolyzers, and proton exchange membrane (PEM) and solid oxide (SO) fuel cell modular systems.
  • Research and engineering involve fundamental development efforts at the component level through system level hardware demonstrations for electrical power generation and storage systems.
  • Develops advanced technologies that result in high performance (higher efficiency, lower mass, etc.), long-life, safe, and reliable electrical power generation and energy storage systems that enable or enhance NASA, other government agency, and commercial space missions/applications.
  • Also responsible for requirement development, system design, modeling, analysis, feasibility trade studies, performance and life prediction, and verification testing of advanced energy storage components integrated into an end-to-end electrical power system.
  • Verifies through ground-based facilities and in-space testing an improved understanding of solar array and electrochemical system performance, durability, and in-space environmental interactions.
  • Responsible for the operation of space solar cell measurements/calibration facility, space environment solar array/coupon test chambers, fuel cell testing facilities, and battery engineering and testing laboratories that support NASA, other government agency, and aerospace industry programs.

Power Architecture and Analysis

  • Provides the systems engineering, analysis and architectural functions with respect to a variety of electrical power systems, including solar and nuclear, applicable across a wide range of programs and projects and support activities from conceptual design to flight system development.
  • Key functions include power system advanced concept identification and evaluation, preliminary conceptual design and sizing of space power systems and components, power system modeling and simulation, computer code development and verification/ validation, analytical results assessment, design and verification analysis cycle support, trade studies and alternative system and component evaluation and optimization, operational system modeling and simulation, and certification of flight readiness support.

Power Management and Distribution

  • Provides discipline engineering for power management and distribution (PMAD) research, development, design, test, and evaluation for use in space, aeronautical, and terrestrial electric power systems applications including power converters, regulators, switchgear, power processing units, cable harness, connectors, and power management and control.
  • Performs engineering functions such as requirements definition, feasibility and trade studies, conceptual design, analytical modeling, detailed design and development, testing, and integration of prototype and flight PMAD systems and components.
  • Performs tasks utilizing its expertise in PMAD architecture development, analytical modeling, power management and controls, power electronics design, development, integration and testing.

Thermal Energy Conversion

  • Plans, conducts and directs research and development to advance the state-of-the-art in a variety of thermal energy conversion systems for aerospace, as well as non-aerospace applications.
  • Provides subject matter expertise in thermodynamic heat engines, heat source integration, and waste heat rejection for radioisotope, fission, and solar thermal power system applications from basic research principles to integrated flight systems.
  • Specific focus areas include Stirling and Brayton power conversion engines, fluidic heat transfer systems, heat exchangers, gas bearings, linear and rotary alternators, engine controllers, heat pipes, and thermal radiators.
  • Energy conversion technology maturation is pursued through conceptual design, computational tool development, parametric system modeling, and a broad range of experimental testing.
  • Interdisciplinary analysis is performed to resolve mechanical, electrical, fluid, and heat transfer performance across the integrated energy conversion system.
  • A primary area of emphasis is the performance verification testing of components and systems in a relevant environment in order to validate design methods and analytical predictions.
  • Laboratory testing is conducted in both air and thermal/vacuum to characterize energy conversion performance, life, and reliability.