Post details: Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators

04/25/05

Permalink 06:59:29 am, Categories: Engineering, null, 132 words   English (US)

Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators

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There have been five known accidents involving RTG powered spacecraft. The first two were launch failures involving U.S. Transit and Nimbus satellites. Two more were failures of Soviet Cosmos missions containing RTG-powered lunar rovers. Finally, the failure of the Apollo 13 mission meant that the Lunar Module which carried the RTG reentered the atmosphere and burnt up over Fiji. The RTG itself survived reentry of the Earth's atmosphere intact, plunging into the Tonga trench in the Pacific Ocean. The US Department of Energy has conducted seawater tests and determined that the graphite casing, which was designed to withstand reentry, is stable and no release of Plutonium will occur. Subsequent investigations have found no increase in the natural background radiation in the area.

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