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Taking space power to the next generation

Yannick Borthomieu, Saft’s Space and Defense Product Manager, sat down with Saft International Magazine editors to talk about the next generation of lithium-ion batteries for space.


Saft’s trailblazing battery technologies have accelerated space exploration since 1966, first helping power the Diapason 1A satellite launch. More than 50 years later, our legacy of reliability in orbit continues at full force. In fact, Saft is the only battery manufacturer to supply all three battery technologies used in space, including nickel-based, primary lithium and lithium-ion (Li-ion).

To address the ever-evolving power demands of space missions, we developed our latest generation space battery cell, the VL 51ES, that delivers exceptional energy density. Containing specifically selected positive and negative electrode materials, this sixth-generation space cell can sustain 18-year life time missions. It is designed to power GEO1 and MEO2 space applications, LEO3 satellites such as radars, and other high energy space applications.

The VL 51ES manufacturing process will be simpler, thus delivering cost savings and reducing the production time. The cell is the building block for the rest of the battery pack already qualified and flight proven with the previous cell generations. Uniquely, the VL 51ES is being developed and manufactured in both France and the United States, bringing together a global team of experts from various divisions.

We collaborate with customers throughout the entire process – from the cell chemistry development, electrode coating and manufacturing, to battery assembly, integration, testing and in-orbit support. To ensure the battery will provide energy for the full mission without failure we performed rigorous testing that simulates the harsh environment of outer space. The qualification process includes various environment testing conditions such as electrical, thermal vacuum, vibrations, accelerations, shocks and radiation.

We provide customers with a thorough data package of all the qualification tests. The VL 51ES will be fully qualified in 2018.
As new space exploration endeavors take flight and satellite technologies continue to evolve, we look forward to working with customers to develop customized, state-of-the-art battery systems that provide unparalleled energy in orbit.



1. GEO: Geosynchronous Orbit

2. MEO: Medium Elliptical Orbit

3. LEO: Low Earth Orbit