Riporto da FPSPACE
HISTORY OF SPACE NUCLEAR POWER
On January 19, 2006 NASA successfully launched the New Horizons
spacecraft on a mission to Pluto. It will fly by the ninth planet
on July 14, 2015 before proceeding into the Kuiper Belt.
New Horizons is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator
(RTG) fueled by plutonium-238. The natural heat of decay of the
plutonium-238 fuel is converted to about 200 watts of electricity by
means of thermoelectric cells.
“Since 1961, the United States has successfully flown 41 radioisotope
thermoelectric generators (RTGs) and one reactor to provide power
for 24 space systems,” reported Gary L. Bennett in a newly updated
history of space nuclear power.
“The development and use of nuclear power in space has enabled the
human race to extend its vision into regions that would not have
been possible with non-nuclear power sources,” wrote Bennett, a
former Energy Department and NASA official who devoted much of his
career to the development of space nuclear power sources.
See “Space Nuclear Power: Opening the Final Frontier” by Gary L.
Bennett, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics paper
number AIAA-2006-4191, presented at the 4th International Energy
Conversion Engineering Conference, June 2006 (posted with the