Linda Bolay is a mathematician at the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics in Ulm. Together with her team she works on a model for testing satellite batteries.
Satellites support crucial navigation and Earth observation systems. Precise satellite positioning is vital for numerous technologies, from land surveying to automated driving. Earth observation data also helps us understand how the world is changing and enables us to take informed decisions. While flying through space satellites need reliable batteries for their control systems, sensors, cameras and other equipment. To help address the challenges presented by our changing world, I am developing a model that will precisely simulate the chemical and physical processes in satellite batteries in order to speed up battery testing processes.
Like all spaceflight components, batteries for satellites must function extremely safely and reliably. Once in space, they cannot be fixed or replaced. They are also exposed to extreme temperatures. Before launch, the batteries are therefore extensively tested in the laboratory or on test stands, often over several years.
At my institute, we are researching how we can accelerate these tests for a wide range of battery storage systems using theory-based models. Through the DLReps project, I am developing a model that precisely describes the chemical and physical processes in the batteries. It is part of the cross-sectoral GigaStore project, which combines the latest findings regarding battery development and energy storage simulation from 11 DLR institutes. The individual teams are working on the further development of electricity and heat storage systems for every area of application.
My model, programmed in MATLAB, is designed to determine charge level and battery health based solely on telemetry data – specifically, temperature, voltage and current. I use existing theoretical models and compare them with data acquired by the Japanese satellite REIMEI, which I receive from the Japanese space agency JAXA. I also use the results of experiments that my colleagues in Stuttgart conduct for me.
How will batteries for spaceflight be tested in the future? Instead of campaigns lasting several years, just a handful of experiments are needed to obtain the basic data for the model. We may even be able to influence battery lifetime, enabling adjustments to the mission and additional manoeuvres. In any case, we will be able to send satellites into space faster and more economically – I am therefore helping to shape future spaceflight at DLR.
Would you like to shape the future with us? You can find the current job advertisements of our Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics here.
Like Linda Bolay, all researchers at DLR pursue their tasks with curiosity and passion every day. They are free to focus all their energy on research and carry out pioneering work in the areas of aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security and digitalisation.
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