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NSWC Crane demonstrates continued support for NASA energy storage life cycle testing for more than 60 years

By NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | Feb. 11, 2019

CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) has supported National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other programs for more than 60 years in energy storage life cycle testing. Currently, NSWC Crane is conducting tests for the NASA Glenn Research Center (GRC) International Space Station (ISS) Lithium-ion Program, which replaces outdated units to allow longer energy storage for ISS missions. This testing allows ISS to complete critical scientific research in space.

Since the 1950’s, NSWC Crane has been a trusted energy storage device research, development and test organization due to the expertise of its personnel and state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. Crane’s capabilities have adapted on pace with the evolution of military, aerospace, and commercial battery technologies.

“Nickel-hydrogen technology was commonly used for space applications from around the late 1970’s to early 1980’s,” says Brian Brock, a Branch Manager at NSWC Crane. “Certain materials in nickel-hydrogen technology became unavailable over the years, so the switch to the new lithium-ion energy storage technology was critical for the ISS mission.”

Lithium-ion battery technology is a modern energy storage method used for various purposes, such as common portable electronics. The ISS Lithium-ion Program is dedicated to replacing obsolete energy storage units aboard the ISS. Since 2012, NSWC Crane has conducted regular, ongoing tests on this new technology to determine battery performance over time.

“Normal life cycle testing reduces program risk by cycling the battery in the most flight-like manner possible,” says Brock. This testing is absolutely necessary to have high confidence that the batteries will complete their mission.”

Dr. Adrian Parker, Engineer and Task Lead of the Aerospace portfolio at NSWC Crane, took part in the Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) during his research on lithium-ion batteries.

“I went from building these batteries in an academic lab for my doctoral work, to testing them at Crane,” says Dr. Parker. “It was beneficial to understand the batteries at a fundamental level to be able to do the testing.”

“The expert workforce here is dedicated to their work,” says Brock. “This group is working around the clock for a mission and customer whom they will never meet.  People want to know they make a difference, and though they may never see the products of their labor first-hand, they know they have a direct mission impact. It is inspiring as a branch manager to continue that culture in the future.”

Brock says upgrading the technology is efficient, saving time and money for not only NASA, but for other entities that use battery technology.

“By using lithium-ion technology, the overall weight and volume of the energy storage devices decrease, saving millions of dollars,” says Brock. “Crane also does modeling and simulation for this technology, and is able to share that data to ensure NASA and other entities can be as effective as possible.”

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.