Brown, Portman Introduce Bill to Boost NASA Glenn and Sunpower in Athens

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) today introduced a bill to boost NASA’s efforts to explore mankind’s farthest horizons while supporting jobs and economic development in Ohio. NASA Glenn in Cleveland and Sunpower Inc. in Athens lead NASA’s efforts to research and develop an advanced radioisotope power system that will more efficiently support spacecraft in the harsh environments of deep space where solar power is not available. The technology, called Advanced Stirling Conversion (ASC), is expected to be four times more efficient than the power systems currently deployed in deep space and is critical in a time of limited resources.

“Sunpower in Athens and NASA Glenn in Cleveland are at the forefront of developing the technology that will allow America to achieve deep space exploration,” said Brown. “Their innovation and contribution to NASA and our country deserves our support. This bill will lay the groundwork for continued investment in the advanced technologies that will lead to deep space exploration.”

“As NASA continues toward deep space exploration, the United States has opened an exciting new chapter that will take mankind deeper into space,” Portman said. “Now, more than ever, we should support the Ohio workers who are on the cutting edge of the innovation that will enable our astronauts and space vehicles to more fully explore these new horizons.”

“Sunpower is grateful to Senators Portman and Brown for their efforts in helping our company continue its relationship with NASA by providing efficient, Ohio-made, Stirling power solutions for space systems,” said Jeffrey Hatfield, Vice President and Sunpower Site Manager. “Their assistance is aiding Sunpower in securing good jobs for Southeastern Ohio and in the continuity of an enabling technology for space exploration.”

The Efficient Space Exploration Act expresses the Sense of Congress that advanced radioisotope power systems are integral to NASA’s success in deep space exploration efforts and that continuity in the production of these power systems is paramount to the success of future deep space missions. The legislation also requires NASA to prepare a detailed report for Congress that assesses the risks associated with delays in the development of advanced radioisotopic technology such as ASC, lays out the NASA administrator’s plan for preserving the infrastructure and workforce to produce these systems, and outlines NASA’s strategy for preserving taxpayer investment in ASC technology. According to Sunpower officials, many good-paying Ohio jobs rely on NASA funding for the development of ASC technology.