Cheaper Batteries for Spacecrafts

Radiation Testing of Commercial Rechargeable Lithium Polymer Batteries for Small Satellite Applications

Photo by Colin from colsramble

Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) electrical components are becoming of interest for small satellite applications due to their accessibility, good performance, and low cost. A commonly available variant is the Lithium Polymer (LiPo) COTS batteries. Our goal was to quantify the performance of these LiPo COTS batteries under irradiation to assess their reliability for use in the harsh conditions of space.

We learned that LiPo battery cells with LiCoO2 cathodes, nominal voltages of 3.7 V, and rated capacities of 6000 mAh only suffered short-term damage from protons, resulting is up to 17% faster discharge rates, but slowly decreases back to normal after about 6 months. Prolonged secondary irradiation, however, can cause a consumption rate increase by up to 42% and thinning and discoloration of the batteries’ separating polypropylene layer, mainly due to neutrons and gammas, however, the damaged cells do not suffer leakage.

In conclusion, we learned that these batteries provide a consistently reliable power supply when used for short-term missions in highly radioactive environments such as the ones found in Earth’s orbits. To lean more, you can find the paper we published here.

Raheem Hashmani
Raheem Hashmani
High Energy Physics Researcher. Ph.D. student at UW-Madison.