The JPL Inertial Reference Unit (IRU) is the single most sophisticated assembly on the Cassini spacecraft. At the core of the IRU is the state-of-the-art, Litton Hemispherical Resonator Gyro (HRG). Launched in October 1997, Cassini's trajectory utilizes gravity assist maneuvers around Venus (two), Earth, and Jupiter over a seven year period, arriving at Saturn in June 2004. Its tour of the Saturnian system will last an additional four years. Although the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU) provides the ultimate reference for the spacecraft Attitude and Articulation Control System (AACS) and can be used to control the spacecraft under benign conditions, the Cassini IRU is essential during maneuvers and fault recovery operations, and for precision attitude stabilization during science data acquisition. Therefore, IRU reliability over the long Cassini mission is a critical concern. Following an extensive evaluation of possible alternatives, the Hemispherical Resonator Gyro (HRG) based IRU developed by Litton Guidance and Control Systems, was chosen for the Cassini mission. The HRG is an attitude rate sensor that has no physical wear-out mechanisms. Based on a principle first described by G. H. Bryan (1890) in his paper, 'On Beats in the Vibrations of a Revolving Cylinder or Bell', the HRG is created by vibrating a quartz resonator. This paper discusses the theory and modifications required to the design of the standard Space Inertial Reference Unit to adapt it to meet the requirements of the Cassini mission and the AACS interface. The Cassini mission is the first use of an IRU for a deep space planetary mission that does not use a spun-mass sensor.