Batteries power the AGILE LEO satellite

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AGILE, the Italian Space Agency’s high-energy astrophysics mission, launched recently by a PSLV rocket from the Sriharikota base in India, is the first LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite to be powered by Saft’s space-qualified MP 176065 rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. AGILE’s near equatorial orbit, at a distance of 550 km from the Earth is a particularly demanding application for the on-board battery system, as it will be charged and discharged over a constantly repeating 100 minute cycle, with no rest periods, throughout a two-year mission.

AGILE is based on a MITA class enhanced platform provided by CGS (Carlo Gavazzi Space S.p.A.) as the leading Contractor working in partnership with Oerlikon-Contraves Space, Alcatel-Alenia Space, and Telespazio.

“The successful launch of AGILE with our space-qualified MP Li-ion cells is an important breakthrough for Saft within the LEO market as it confirms our capability to use these standard, commercially available modules to deliver very cost-effective on-board battery solutions that ensure the performance and reliability of the satellite’s secondary power supply,” said Philippe Jehanno, General Manager of Saft’s Space and Defense Division.

The Saft battery system will work in conjunction with AGILE’s solar array to provide the electrical power for the satellite’s on-board electronics, ranging from 200 W up to a peak load of 460 W. When the solar array is fully exposed to the sun it will provide the satellite’s power as well as charging the batteries. When the solar array is ‘eclipsed’ by the earth, with no direct sunlight, the batteries will power the satellite. This charge and discharge cycle will be repeated approximately every 90 minutes – the time AGILE takes to complete one Earth orbit.

The battery system comprises 24 Saft MP 176065 space-qualified Li-ion cells in an eight series and three parallel configuration with a nominal capacity of 16.8 Ah and an energy storage capability of 480 Wh. An integral autonomous cell balancing system will ensure the maximum possible battery life. Two battery packs with a total number of 48 cells are integrated on board.