SME Innovation | A battery for a lunar vehicle

The Center for Advanced Technologies (CTA) aims at the moon. The Sherbrooke Company is developing a battery system for the Chandra Mobile Vehicle (Rover) project launched by the Canadian Space Agency.

Posted at 9:00 am

Mark Tyson

Mark Tyson
The press

Innovation

Following the success of its robotic space arm, the Canadian Space Agency wants to contribute to the conquest of new frontiers. In addition to a new intelligent arm project aimed at future lunar orbital stations, the agency has launched a design program for a small vehicle aimed at exploring the ground of our satellite. In November 2021, following a call for tenders, the initial ideas presented by two Canadian companies were selected for Phase A of the project. As a member of the subcontractor group affiliated with the space technology company MDA, CTA is developing batteries and its electrical systems. His challenge: adapted to space – comparatively – proven technology.

WHO?

The CTA was founded about fifteen years ago by engineering researchers at Sherbrooke University and engineers at BRP, with the aim of solving advanced engineering problems that were extremely risky and complex for industrial processes. Standard business development.


Image courtesy of CTA

Located in Sherbrooke, CTA’s head office has workshops and laboratories where mechanical, acoustic and electrical tests can be performed.

Equipped with its own laboratory, the company focuses on five mobility parameters: mechatronics, connections, structure lighting, sound and vibration as well as electrification, hence batteries. He also specializes in numerical simulations.

Initially dedicated to BRP’s exploratory projects, CTA quickly offers its services to any company wishing to benefit from its expertise.

But is it SME?

“CTA itself is a company, independent. This is an NPO [organisme à but non lucratif]. All profits generated by the CTA are reinvested in the company, ”explained Daniel Dussep, head of engineering services.

The CTA has about 15 employees from BRP and 25 more from Sherbrooke University. Salary is paid by CTA. “Our time is 100% dedicated to business and CTA growth,” he added.

We do not make ordinary batteries that are easily available in the market. When clients come to see us, they have very specific needs.

Eric Maynard, Electrification Project Manager, CTA

The challenge

The Canadian Space Agency’s small rover will measure about 0.8 meters in length and 1 meter in width and about 1 meter in height. It will weigh about 24 kg and will carry at least two scientific instruments.

He will have to travel to the lunar south pole region, where he will face positive and negative extremes of temperature at the same time.

“In space, the shadow side comes in contact with -230 degrees Celsius and at the same time, the sun side is exposed to 180 degrees Celsius,” Daniel Dusepe noted.


Image courtesy of CTA

Prior to collaborating for a lunar spacecraft, CTA worked with the Canadian company MDA on the development of various exploration vehicles for the Canadian Space Agency.

The car must be in operation for at least 2 lunar days and 1 night, each equal to 14 earth days or 42 days.

To get through the cold moon night, “you need to design a battery that is capable of maintaining enough power to keep it warm enough to wake up after 14 days and start running the rover again,” says Eric Maynard. The most efficient use of each electron. To do this you need to optimize everything about the rover system and the battery. ”

This is where CTA skills come in handy in electrifying recreational vehicles.

Earthly experience

In March 2021, BRP announced that it would launch electric vehicles in all its ranges, an electrification whose CTA was “The Spark Plug”, according to Eric Maynard’s technically paradoxical metaphor.

“Over the years, we’ve worked to make batteries work in all sorts of contexts,” he explained Imagine the far north, the desert. We’ve come up with all sorts of ways to help heat or cool batteries in this environment When Canada wanted to build a rover to the moon and put a battery in it, we had a well-equipped toolbox to find a solution. A

For the Astromobile Vehicle project, CTA provides vehicle design support, including mechanical and thermal simulations.

“Simulation takes its place for a space object, whatever it is, first because you can’t go wrong,” says Daniel Dussep. We can’t really test, it has to work first. A

The road

“Our challenge is to create a battery using traditional cells and traditional electronics that will be able to survive in the space environment. So lithium-ion cells,” explains Eric Maynard.

In addition to temperature, the battery must withstand vibration and takeoff acceleration, solar radiation, and space vacuum.

“This is not to say that ordinary space technologies will not be used, but that our battery concept should be kept as close to commercial applications as possible so that it is accessible in terms of lead time and production costs,” he explained.

Progress

At the end of Phase A of the project, which will be completed in a few weeks, one of the two integrators will be selected for the development and production phase of the small vehicle aimed at landing on the moon before 2026.

“The concept is defined, the battery is dimensional, as specified by Eric Maynard.” We are half through design. We will wait for the rest of the order to design in detail. Today, we already know how we’re going to drum. A

If the MDA is successful, the CTA team will then prototype the various sub-components of the battery to verify critical concepts, then assemble the entire prototype to test its functionality and integration with the vehicle.

“The last step is to build a battery that will go into space,” said Daniel Dusep.

The future

“The battery we’re developing is likely to find itself at the crossroads of two worlds, space and automotive applications, and this will be the point where we can maximize the benefits for both realities,” said Eric Maynard.

Whether or not its batteries roll to the moon, the project will take the CTA to new heights.

“The development of this battery takes us further in digital, virtual engineering, which makes it possible to develop, simulate and verify as many things as possible before creating the smallest part,” he added. This engineering method is going to be useful in all contexts. A

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