From Bombers to Mars: Rover Batteries Based on Air Force Research

In space, there is no place for a spacecraft to plug in its power cord. Not even with an adapter. Instead, space probes have to take their power with them and NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs) are no exception. The rovers, dubbed Spirit and Opportunity, are dependent on solar panels for power, as well as new rechargeable batteries that were developed using technology created at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. The rechargeable batteries are based on lithium-ion technology, instead of the more traditional nickel-cadmium or nickel-hydrogen varieties in use today, and resulted from a collaborative effort by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Glenn Research Center and the AFRL.