Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators
NASA's Nimbus III weather satellite made the first civilian use of nuclear batteries, or “space batteries,” 1969. Officially known as Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs), the batteries have provided spacecraft power for many years.
Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs), called “space batteries” or “nuclear batteries”, have provided spacecraft power for many years.
Most recently, an RTG provides power for the New Horizons spacecraft which was launched January 19, 2006, ‘from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on a 9-1/2 year journey to explore Pluto and its moons. The spacecraft will receive heat and electricity from a long-lasting plutonium-238 powered generator developed and assembled by scientists and engineers at the [Department of Energy's] Idaho, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories.
For the mission, the Department of Energy developed and delivered a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or “RTG.” This “space battery” provides an uninterrupted and reliable source of heat and electricity in remote and harsh environments such as deep space. The RTG will provide power and heat for many years to the New Horizons spacecraft and its on-board scientific equipment through the radioactive decay of nuclear material. Heat generated by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 is converted into electricity by solid-state thermoelectrics.’1
Learn more about “space batteries”; visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s R&D Accomplishments.
Excerpted from U.S. Department of Energy, www.osti.gov