Nuclear Energy in Space



  • The UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) of ISRO invited proposals for the three-phase development of a 100-Watt Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG).


  • URSC is ISRO’s lead centre for design, development, fabrication, and testing of all Indian-made satellites.
  • The centre envisions using RTG for power generation and thermal management of ISRO’s deep space missions.
  • RTGs are lightweight, compact spacecraft power systems that are extraordinarily reliable.
  • RTGs provide electric power using heat from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium-238, in the form of plutonium dioxide.
  • The large difference in temperature between this hot fuel and the cold environment of space is applied across special solid-state metallic junctions called thermocouples, which generates an electric current using no moving parts.
  • Sometimes referred to as “nuclear batteries”, RTGs are not fission reactors, nor is plutonium the type that is used for nuclear weapons.
  • More than 2 dozen US space missions have used RTGs since the first one was launched in 1961 like Cassini, New Horizon and Curiosity etc.
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