The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 8, 2013

EaglePicher to provide lithium-ion batteries for satellite’s mission

JOPLIN, Mo. — A new satellite that will measure climate-induced changes in the elevation of polar ice sheets will be powered by lithium-ion batteries manufactured by EaglePicher Technologies, of Joplin.

The satellite, when it is deployed in low-earth orbit in 2016, will measure how climate change is affecting the polar ice fields and whether rising sea levels will impact coastal communities.

EaglePicher has received a contract from Orbital Sciences Corp. to provide the lithium-ion batteries to support the ICESat-2, which stands for Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

“It is important research,’’ said Dave Mascher, a senior program manager with EaglePicher’s plant in the Crossroads Center Business and Distribution Park. “It will look at sea-level change, climate and coastal communities.’’

This is the second satellite to be launched to measure the impact of climate change on polar ice sheets. From 2003 to 2009, the ICESat-2 mission provided multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass. It also provided stratospheric cloud information and topographic and vegetation data from around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

For that satellite, EaglePicher supplied nickel-hydrogen batteries. The ICESat-2 is being upgraded with lithium-ion technology.

A lithium-ion cell, manufactured by GS Yuasa, of Japan, will be packaged into a battery that is designed and built by EaglePicher.

“It’s a large-format shell from GS Yuasa that fits the application best,’’ said Mascher.

No additions to the EaglePicher work force in Joplin will be needed to fulfill the contract.  

EaglePicher and GS Yuasa formed a strategic alliance in 2004 to provide lithium-ion battery options for the aerospace industry combining GS Yuasa’s expertise in large format lithium-ion cells with EaglePicher’s leadership in aerospace battery design, manufacturing, integration and testing.

The newly contracted mission is scheduled to launch in July of 2016 from Space Launch Complex-2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will orbit about 300 miles above the earth.

The lithium-ion batteries designed by EaglePicher for the satellite incorporate many of the design features that have been successfully used by Orbital in 13 of its GEOStar commercial communications satellites, the first of which were launched in 2008.

“We are honored to have been selected by Orbital as the key battery supplier for this important scientific mission that will help NASA scientists build a better understanding of Earth’s system and its response to natural or human-induced changes,” said Ron Nowlin, vice president of EaglePicher aerospace and alternative energy storage, in a statement.

“This award demonstrates Orbital’s confidence in EaglePicher’s reliable and innovative lithium-ion battery solutions provided for the aerospace industry, and builds upon the strong partnership formed by GS Yuasa and EaglePicher.”

Science objectives of ICESat-2

• Quantifying polar ice-sheet contributions to current and recent sea-level change and the linkages to climate conditions.

• Quantifying regional signatures of ice-sheet changes to assess mechanisms driving those changes and improve predictive ice sheet models.

• Estimating sea-ice thickness to examine ice/ocean/atmosphere exchanges of energy, mass and moisture.

• Measuring vegetation canopy height as a basis for estimating large-scale biomass and biomass change.

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