U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Office of Scientific and Technical Information

"Space batteries" highlighted at OSTI's DOE R&D Accomplishments

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. The spacecraft is expected to take a 9-1/2 year journey to explore Pluto and its moons. During exploration, a long-lasting plutonium-238 powered generator developed by researchers at DOE national labs in Idaho, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos will provide heat and electricity for the spacecraft. OSTI's DOE R&D Accomplishments is a central Web forum for information about the outcomes of past DOE R&D that have had significant economic impact, have improved people's lives, or have been widely recognized as a remarkable advance in science.