Aerospace batteries tested in space

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




(2004), "Aerospace batteries tested in space", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 76 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Aerospace batteries tested in space

Aerospace batteries tested in space

Keywords: Aerospace, Batteries, Space travel

Lightweight, rechargeable battery technology, which is said to be set to have a major impact on the aerospace sector, is being put through its paces in one of the most hostile environments known to man - space.

Re-chargeable lithium-ion batteries, supplied by AEA Battery Systems, are currently powering the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter on its ongoing mission to look for evidence of life on Mars. AEA's batteries provide power to Mars Express when it is hidden from the sun and support peak power demands. At other times solar power is used to operate the craft and recharge the batteries.

Many of the power challenges faced in the aerospace sector are similar to those encountered in space. The use of AEA's lithium-ion battery technology on the Mars Express mission therefore demonstrates a number of key features of the batteries that could bring substantial benefits to the aerospace sector and particularly for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programmes such as the UK MOD's Watchkeeper. These benefits claimed include the following.

  1. 1.

    Size and weight - AEA's batteries are approximately one third the size and weight of traditional re-chargeable battery technologies, making them ideal for aerospace applications, where weight and size are obviously critical factors;

  2. 2.

    Temperature range - AEA's batteries can operate effectively in the low temperatures encountered at altitude (down to -40°C). Other rechargeable technologies such as nickel cadmium do not operate effectively below 0°C;

  3. 3.

    Rugged construction - the lithium-ion cells used in AEA's batteries, are hermetically sealed, using specialised laser welding, making them ideal for the harsh environments in which aircraft often operate; and

  4. 4.

    Reliability - proven in the orbits of Mars, at least 35 million miles from Earth, AEA's batteries offer this reliability to an equally demanding aerospace sector.

“The use of our batteries on the Mars Express mission demonstrates the benefits that light weight, lithium-ion battery technology could bring to the aerospace sector. Our expertise and reliability has led us to being awarded contracts on over 30 spacecraft - more than any other company - and Mars Express is just another example of our ability to deliver portable power solutions, which perform in the most extreme environments,” said Dave Loughborough, managing director of AEA Battery Systems.

AEA currently supplies batteries for other aerospace applications including ejector seats and pilot conditioning suits. AEA Technology has now been awarded contracts for lithium-ion batteries on over 30 spacecraft - more than any other company.

For further details, contact: AEA Battery Systems. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7861 3135.

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