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Diagnostics and Prognostics Group Members Help Test Lithium-Ion Battery for NODES Small Satellite Mission
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Diagnostics and Prognostics Group Members Help Test Lithium-Ion Battery for NODES Small Satellite Mission

The lithium-ion battery pack for the NODES (Network & Operation Demonstration Satellite) Technology Demonstration Mission was flight certified with the assistance of testing conducted in the Systems Health, Analytics, Resilience, and Physics (SHARP) Lab in the Intelligent Systems Division and test facilities in the Mission Development Division. Personnel in the Diagnostics and Prognostics Group performed testing in collaboration with the Mission Development Division and the System Safety and Mission Assurance Division. This is the first time the SHARP Lab has performed certification testing of flight batteries for a space mission. Prior testing for the Edison Demonstration of Smallsat Networks (EDSN) Mission helped fine-tune some of the testing procedures used for this activity. The success of this effort is expected to lead to future flight certification testing for other small-sat missions hoping to launch from the International Space Station (ISS).

An updated process for certifying lithium-ion cells that pass through the ISS was defined for this work in collaboration with the Office of Quality Assurance (OQA) at Ames and the Flight Safety Review Board at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Testing carried out for this certification effort included: a detailed physical inspection before and after experiments; electrical cycling characterization at the cell and pack levels; battery-pack overcharge, over-discharge, and external short testing; and battery-pack vacuum leak and vibration testing. The electrical cycling characterization procedure subjected flight cells and packs to charge/discharge cycles to observe any discrepancies, while overcharge and over-discharge cycles were conducted to test the protection circuit mechanisms in the packs. The battery packs were also subjected to a complete short in order to test operation of the safety mechanisms under such adverse conditions. Vacuum leak testing was conducted to observe any leaks from the cell, and vibration tests were conducted to test connectivity in the pack circuits.

Pass/fail certification criteria were set to < 0.1% change in mass and less than 5% change in capacity before and after testing; all flight cells and packs passed the tests.

BACKGROUND: NODES is planned for launch to the ISS in October 2014 on an Antares launch vehicle. The NODES power source is derived from a battery pack built by the NODES Satellites team. The same battery holder, battery protection circuit, and cells flew on PhoneSat 2.0 Beta (Antares A-ONE), PhoneSat 2.4 (ORS3 Minotaur 1), PhoneSat 2.5 (SpaceX CRS-3), KickSat (SpaceX CRS-3), and are planned for the upcoming EDSN mission. The battery cells are standard cylindrical 18650 lithium-ion cells. This battery pack was chosen because of use on previous PhoneSat missions and for compliance with NASA battery safety requirements. However, additional certification testing was required for the packs to pass through the ISS. The ISS plans to launch 100+ cubesat missions in the next few years, and batteries are a key safety concern.

TEAM: Brian Bole, Chetan S. Kulkarni, Ali Guarneros Luna, Lynn Hofland, Leonard Hee, Susan Suffel, and interns Thomas Shu and Kevin Sok

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: NODES (Network & Operation Demonstration Satellite) Mission, Small Spacecraft Technology Program (SSTP), Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

Contact: Chetan S. Kulkarni

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