Saft batteries power the ATV Jules Verne

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 4 July 2008



(2008), "Saft batteries power the ATV Jules Verne", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 80 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Saft batteries power the ATV Jules Verne

Article Type: Mini features From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 4

Saft specialised primary and rechargeable spaceflight batteries are powering the Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) Jules Verne, the most challenging spacecraft ever engineered and produced in Europe, on its maiden mission to re-supply the International Space Station (ISS).

In the morning of 9 March, the 19.4-tonne ATV, developed for the European Space Agency (ESA) by EADS ASTRIUM Space Transportation as the prime contractor, was placed successfully in a low earth orbit by an Ariane-5 vehicle launched from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. It ferried a load of propellants, food, water and scientific equipment and was the first European spacecraft to autonomously dock with the ISS. Once docked, the ATV became an extension of the space station, orbiting around 300 km above the Earth. When its month long mission was complete the ATV was loaded with 6.5 tonne of waste and separated from the ISS to fully burn up during its guided and controlled re-entry to the atmosphere high over the Pacific Ocean.

Jules Verne is the first in a programme of 5 ATVs planned to re-supply the ISS at approximately 12-month intervals.

Saft has designed, developed and supplied all eight onboard primary and rechargeable batteries required for the ATV Jules Verne, and has a long-term contract with EADS ASTRIUM Space Transportation to supply all the batteries for future ATV missions until 2011. Saft’s experience in the management of battery development projects is a vital element in the success of this complex programme which required the co-ordination of a number of manufacturing sites and two different battery technologies.

Primary lithium batteries

Saft primary lithium batteries (Li-MnO2) claim a particular advantage for spacecraft as their high-specific energy helps to reduce the overall weight. They also comply with safety qualifications for manned flight missions. This is important, because while the ATV will travelled as an unmanned automated space vehicle once docked it functioned as an integral part of the manned space station. Two primary lithium batteries played a key role by supplying power for the separation of the ATV from the ISS at the end of its mission, while two other identical batteries powered the emergency procedures.

Rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries

About 100 min after lift-off, the ATV became a fully automated spacecraft navigating towards the ISS. During this phase, its main power was derived from four large solar wings with backup provided by four nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries. Once docked, the Ni-Cd batteries continued to provide power for the ATV during the approximately 30 min periods of each 90 min orbit that its solar panels were eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow. Saft Ni-Cd batteries offer a particularly robust and reliable solution for this application, with a spaceflight heritage that goes back over 40 years.

“Saft has developed an outstanding track record in delivering reliable, high performance batteries for satellites and launch vehicles. Now, with this first ATV mission, we are proving our capability to transfer this expertise to manned flight vehicles” said Philippe Jehanno, General Manager, Poitiers site. “Furthermore, supplying primary lithium and Ni-Cd batteries has enabled us to demonstrate the scope of our product portfolio that can provide the ideal battery technology for every spaceflight application.”

The ATV batteries were designed and manufactured by Saft’s plant in Poitiers, France with the support of its Bordeaux plant for the Ni-Cd batteries and the Büdingen plant in Germany for the primary lithium cells.

Details available from: Saft Specialty Battery Group, Tel.:+33 1 49 93 19 18, e-mail:

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