Batteries on Mars

Mars Perseverance Rover

Team members at Brill Power as well as many from around the world watched with keen interest as NASA successfully landed their Perseverance Rover on Mars on Thursday February 18th, 2021.

Mars Perserverance
This illustration depicts NASA’s Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As Engineers, observing such accomplishments acts as an inspiration for our own work, although for right now our plans are still earth bound.  

One aspect about this mission that hit home for Brill Power though, was that this mission showed how important Lithium-ion batteries are to the latest and most challenging technological projects.

In case you were not aware, the Perseverance Rover is planned to be on Mars studying the planet for the next 3 years. There are obviously no fueling stations on Mars and so this machine needs to be able to energize itself. It’s also important to remember, Mars is a very hostile environment where on average temperatures can range from -140 °C to 30°C. Being able to perform and maintain its functionality is key to the mission’s success.

Perseverance has been designed with a radioisotope power system, which has been called a “Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator” or MMRTG for short. Whilst powering this machine, it also charges two primary lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. The purpose of these batteries is to support the rover when its peak demand exceeds the MMRTG’s steady electrical output levels.

We are going to be paying close attention to this mission. Not just for what we can learn about Mars, but what we can learn about batteries in the most extreme conditions.

For more information, check out NASA’s overview of their electrical power system here

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