Batteries Enabling Planetary and Deep Space Exploration

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  • Author: Rob Gitzendanner, Frank Puglia, Richard Meehan
EaglePicher has a long history of supplying batteries and energy storage systems for launchers, satellites, rovers, landers and other space applications. EaglePicher has achieved over 2.8 billion hours of cell operations in space applications with no failures. This success ranges from the early Apollo missions, decades of nickel-hydrogen powered satellites, to highly successful planetary exploration missions. EaglePicher also has a legacy of lithium-ion cells and batteries in a range of space applications including GPS III, Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit, Opportunity and Perseverance (Exhibit 1), and the Juno mission exploring Jupiter at the greatest distance from Earth a lithium-ion system has traveled. All of these missions are supported with high reliability, high performance cells and batteries manufactured by EaglePicher. The performance, life, and power and energy density provided by these battery designs are truly mission enabling; delivering the energy storage solutions critical for mission success. After powering the MER rovers for over 14 years, supporting more than 25 orbits of Jupiter and preparing to recover material from the surface of asteroid Bennu, the batteries designed and developed for these missions have led to numerous scientific discoveries. The Mars Curiosity Rover team alone has generated over 400 publications to date. EaglePicher continues to drive new advancements in cell and battery designs, new electronics for power management and control, and new techniques for improved battery assembly and reliability. Future missions will benefit from these next generation enhancements including improved safety features for both manned and unmanned missions, managed arrays of commercial-off-the-shelf cells, and high energy rechargeable and nonrechargeable chemistries. This paper reviews these mission enabling technologies, enhancements in battery designs and performance, and current and future scientific explorations enabled by the technology
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