Power Systems laboratory
What is it for?
One of the three facilities comprising ESA's combined Power Laboratory, the Power Systems Laboratory performs tests related to satellite power systems and equipment.
Satellite systems rely on electricity to keep operational, but their power subsystems require careful design and management. The level of power produced by solar arrays – the dominant electricity source for almost all missions – varies greatly over time depending on satellite and planetary motion and short- and long-term space environment effects.
Onboard batteries provide temporary backup when available power dips too low, but an excess of electricity can be more dangerous, with surges wreaking havoc on delicate onboard electronics. Satellites demand power conditioning equipment to maintain voltage and current within fixed limits. Different spacecraft elements can have varied power specifications so electrical current often has its voltage transformed as it moves around the satellite.
The Powee Systems Laboratory carries out research related to these vital tasks. The intention is to guarantee they will go on operating reliably in all types of conditions and rapidly evaluate prototype 'breadboards' of novel designs.
In addition satellite power subsystems are increasingly running up to thousands of volts to fulfil the needs of high-performance equipment such as radar devices, amplifiers, ion engines or communication transponders. A telecommunication satellite may have as many as 60 high-voltage transponders aboard, all of which have to operate reliably for 15 years or more.
The presence of high voltage power aboard a satellite increases the risk of damaging power surges, electrical charging and arcing, Accordingly the Laboratory also has unparalleled expertise in the field of high voltage testing.
Last update: 29 September 2009