July 1, 2004
The Cassini-Huygena spacecraft goes into orbit around the planet Saturn following a seven-year journey made possible partly by work done at DOE sites. Cassini is powered by plutonium-238 produced by DOE's Savannah River Site. The Pu-238 is contained in three radioisotopic thermo-electric generators (RTGs) that convert heat from the plutonium fuel into electricity to power the spacecraft's many scientific instruments, control systems, and communication devices. DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed and fabricated the protective cladding, iridium alloy clad vent sets, to encapsulate the fuel.