RIG-I (retinoic acid inducible gene-I) is a cytosolic innate immune protein that senses viral dsRNA with a 5-triphosphate overhang. Upon interaction with dsRNA a de-repression of the RIG-I CARD domains takes place that ultimately leads to the production of type I interferons and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Here we investigate the RIG-I conformational rearrangement upon interaction with an activating 5-triphosphate-10-base pair dsRNA hairpin loop (10bp) compared with a less active 5-triphosphate-8-base pair dsRNA hairpin loop (8bp). We use size-exclusion chromatography-coupled small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and limited tryptic digest experiments to show that that upon binding to 10 bp, but not 8 bp, RIG-I becomes extended and shows greater flexibility, reflecting the release of its CARDs. We also examined the effect of different ATP analogues on the conformational changes of RIG-I/dsRNA complexes. Of the analogues tested, the addition of ATP transition state analogue ADP-AlFx further assisted in the complete activation of RIG-I in complex with 10bp and also to some extent RIG-I bound to 8bp. Together these data provide solution-based evidence for the molecular mechanism of innate immune signaling by RIG-I as stimulated by short hairpin RNA and ATP.