NASA Lewis Research Center's Electrochemical Technology Branch
has teamed with the NASA Wallops Flight Facility to demonstrate
the operation of a hydrogen-oxygen proton exchange membrane (PEM)
fuel cell for application in the upper atmosphere. NASA Wallops'
Balloon Programs Branch has a requirement for a high-power, long-duration
power system for use on a scientific balloon platform. The current
power system will not meet these needs. The objective of this
program is to deliver a 200-W (minimum) fuel cell system that
can deliver approximately 10 kWh of electrical energy.
The Lewis team is responsible for designing, building, testing,
and delivering a flight power system capable of meeting mission
requirements. This power system will be based on a hydrogen/oxygen
fuel cell developed as a result of a NASA Lewis Phase II Small
Business Innovation Research (SBIR) PEM fuel cell program
with ElectroChem, Inc.
The remote system must deliver power continuously, in a safe,
reliable manner. It must be able to accommodate extreme ambient
conditions, including a temperature range of -70 to 100 °F and
a pressure range of 14.7 to below 1 psia. Waste heat, which is
normally rejected by fuel cell systems, will be used to maintain
proper operating temperatures for the fuel cell and the accompanying
ancillary components, including the electronic equipment. It will
also be used to maintain the temperature of the product water
and to aid in proper water storage and/or discharge.
In addition to the extreme environmental conditions, the fuel cell power system must be able to withstand the physical forces and accelerations that will be encountered over the course of the mission. These forces are expected to reach as high as 8 to 10g. The initial flight is scheduled for early Summer 1997, and pending successful operation, the system will be reused on subsequent experimental balloon flights. The next planned program phase is to scale-up the fuel cell power system to 96 kWh of electrical output.
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Last updated April 30, 1997
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