NASA announced that it is collaborating with the American company Advanced Thermal Batteries (ATB) in the development of a new thermal battery system that is capable of operating longer in the extreme environmental conditions of Venus, which would allow extending the operational life of future missions that will explore the surface of our planet’s ‘evil twin’. Venus has some similarities to Earth in terms of size, mass, and composition. However, the two planets are totally different in thermal and atmospheric matters, since the average temperature on the Venusian surface is around 465 degrees Celsius, while the surface pressure can reach up to 92 bars.
Likewise, there is evidence that its atmosphere is highly corrosive, since it is composed mainly of sulfuric acid, which considerably affects many materials used in the manufacture of spacecraft, such as copper. This hostile environment has greatly hampered the ‘in situ’ exploration of Venus, since space missions that have successfully landed on our neighboring planet, such as the Soviet Venera 13 and 14 probes (1982), were only able to operate for approximately two hours. . In that time span, both devices sent back the first color images from the surface of the second-closest planet to the Sun.
Finding new technological options Scientists are faced with a great challenge due to the environmental conditions of Venus, so they must find materials and engineering approaches that allow to prolong the operation of the components, such as the batteries, that integrate both the landers and the aircraft. space probes. In an attempt to remedy this situation, specialists from NASA and ATB created the first battery with the ability to operate at high temperatures for one Venusian solar day, which is equivalent to 120 Earth days. The energy storage device is based on the technology of thermal battery systems commonly used to power smart missiles. According to the US space agency, its new battery consists of 17 individual cells, and is made with unique chemical and structural materials. The invention will be part of NASA’s upcoming lander, called the Long Duration In Situ Solar System Explorer, which aims to stay on the surface of Venus for 60 Venusian days.