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Nodes Small Satellites Deployed From ISS With Batteries Certified at The Prognostics Center of Exclellence's SHARP Lab
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Nodes Small Satellites Deployed From ISS With Batteries Certified at The Prognostics Center of Exclellence's SHARP Lab

Two Nodes satellites were deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) on May 16. The batteries on the satellites were certified for flight by Chetan Kulkarni from the Prognostics Center of Excellence (PCoE) in the Intelligent Systems Division, Ali Guarneros Luna from the System Safety and Mission Assurance Division, and Jasper Wolfe from the Mission Design Division. Test procedures were devised to meet stringent safety requirements for batteries passing through the ISS. Experimental testing was conducted in the PCoE System Health, Analytics, Resilience, and Physics-modeling (SHARP) Lab to certify that the batteries met all requirements for flight. This is the first time that the PCoE SHARP lab has performed certification of batteries for a space mission. The success of this effort is expected to lead to future battery flight certifications for other small-sat missions that wish to deploy from ISS.

The Li-ion battery packs were originally certified and integrated with the Nodes satellites in late 2014. The batteries were stored in a fully charged state and launched to the ISS on the fourth Orbital ATK cargo mission on December 6, 2015. Normally it is not recommended for batteries to be stored in a fully charged state since this results in faster degradation, leading to capacity decrease. However, once the Nodes satellites were integrated with the launch payload, there was no possibility of access to the batteries. Due to the long storage time between initial certification and eventual deployment from ISS, additional testing was performed in the SHARP lab in April to characterize the health state of the batteries. Since there was no way to test the batteries on the Nodes satellites on the ISS, the team used two of the earlier certified battery packs. These batteries, which were in close to the same charge condition as the batteries on the satellites, were subjected to simulated test cycles that mimicked the exact charge/discharge cycle for the small sat. These tests showed that the Nodes satellite batteries should be in sufficiently good health to complete mission requirements.

BACKGROUND: The Nodes satellites will demonstrate the ability for a network of small, low-cost satellites to receive and distribute commands in space from the ground, while periodically exchanging scientific data from their onboard radiation instruments. The power is derived from standard cylindrical 18650 lithium-ion cells. The same battery holder, battery protection circuit, and cells flew in PhoneSat 2.0 Beta (Antares A-ONE), PhoneSat 2.4 (ORS3 Minotaur 1), PhoneSat 2.5 (SpaceX CRS-3), and KickSat (SpaceX CRS-3). While the Nodes satellites were deployed from the NanoRacks external platform, because they passed through the ISS, additional certification testing was required. The battery testing performed in the PCoE SHARP lab satisfied all flight certification requirements. The lab possesses full capabilities for testing and certification of battery cells and packs for small-sat missions. The testbed consists of four different test stands used for the certification process. These include capabilities for electrochemical characterization, for testing external electrical shorts, vacuum testing, and vibration testing.

The Prognostics Center of Excellence (PCoE) in the Intelligent Systems Division at Ames Research Center provides an umbrella for prognostic technology development, specifically addressing prognostic technology gaps within the application areas of aeronautics and space exploration. The Systems Health, Analytics, Resilience, and Physics-modeling (SHARP) Lab has equipment and facilities to support the research of diagnostic and prognostic techniques. The lab performs characterization, accelerating aging, and experimental testing to generate data sets that test and ultimately support validation of algorithms and methodologies developed by PCoE personnel.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP), Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

TEAM: Chetan S. Kulkarni (TI), Ali Guarneros Luna (QS), and Jasper Wolfe (RD)

POINT OF CONTACT: Chetan S. Kulkarni, chetan.s.kulkarni@nasa.gov

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