Once upon a time, energy systems for space missions were simple. You used batteries for very short missions, solar panels in the inner Solar System, nuclear power generators if you were beyond Mars or needed a lot of power, and fuel cells for manned spacecraft. However, as space exploration starts looking into lunar polar craters, comets, and the icy moons of Jupiter, new energy systems will be needed. To anticipate that need, NASA has made awards to four proposals to develop advanced energy storage technology for future manned and unmanned space missions.

Working under the management of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program, the four new proposals aim at developing power-generating and storage systems that are reliable and able to the wide range of hostile environments that missions are likely to encounter in space. These proposals include,

  • Silicon Anode Based Cells for High Specific Energy Systems, from Amprius, Inc, in Sunnyvale, California
  • High Energy Density and Long-Life Lithium-Sulfur Batteries for Aerospace Applications, by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena
  • Advanced High Energy Rechargeable Lithium-Sulfur Batteries, submitted by Indiana University in Bloomington
  • Garnet Electrolyte Based Safe, Lithium-Sulfur Energy Storage, submitted by the University of Maryland, College Park
  • A model of a 3-kilowatt fuel cell (Photo: NASA)

    The awards were given to proposals submitted by NASA research centers, and federally-funded R&D centers, universities, and private industries with NASA working in collaboration with the US Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) and other partners. Each award include three phases.

    • Phase I: US$250,000 for eight months of component testing and analysis
  • Phase II: $1 million for one year of engineering development
  • Phase III: $2 million for 18 months of prototype development
  • "New energy storage technology will be critical to our future exploration of deep space – whether missions to an asteroid, Mars or beyond,” says Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology. “That's why we're investing in this critical mission technology area."

    Source: NASA

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