India's ISRO achieves a groundbreaking feat by harnessing power from a hydrogen fuel cell in space. Conducted on the orbital platform, POEM3, the test showcased a 100W polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell generating 180W of power from onboard hydrogen and oxygen. This success marks a stride towards efficient, emission-free power for future manned space missions, aligning with ISRO's ambitious space station plans by 2035.
In a pioneering leap for space technology, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has achieved a significant breakthrough by successfully harnessing power from a hydrogen fuel cell in space. This milestone test, conducted on the orbital platform POEM3, launched aboard the PSLV-C58 vehicle on January 1, 2024, is a critical step towards advancing the technology needed for future manned space missions, including India's ambitious goal of establishing a fully functional space station by 2035.
The focal point of the project was the testing of a 100W class polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell-based power system. During the experiment, the fuel cell demonstrated its capability by generating 180W of power using hydrogen and oxygen gases stored onboard in high-pressure vessels. This success not only signifies a technological triumph but also provides ISRO with valuable performance-related data crucial for designing advanced systems for upcoming space missions.
One of the key advantages of using hydrogen fuel cells in space missions lies in their ability to produce energy with only water vapor as a byproduct. ISRO emphasized, "The ability to produce electricity directly from fuels without any intermediate step renders them very efficient." Additionally, hydrogen boasts a high energy density, making it an ideal choice for powering spacecraft and space stations due to its ability to store a substantial amount of energy in confined quarters.
Fuel cells have been integral to space missions since the mid-1960s, with NASA pioneering the use of alkaline fuel cells for power generation in satellites and space capsules. The successful integration of a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell onboard the Gemini V spacecraft in 1965 marked a significant milestone, with fuel cells serving as the primary power source and silver-zinc batteries handling peak loads.
The recent triumph adds to India's space exploration successes, following the Chandrayaan-3 vehicle's successful landing on the dark side of the Moon in August 2023. Riding on this achievement, ISRO has unveiled plans to send Indian astronauts to the Moon for the first time by 2040.
ISRO's groundbreaking achievement in generating power from a hydrogen fuel cell in space not only propels India's space technology prowess but also lays the foundation for future manned space missions. The successful test of the 100W polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell signifies a crucial step towards the efficiency and sustainability of power sources in the demanding conditions of outer space. This accomplishment aligns seamlessly with India's ambitious plans to establish a fully functional space station by 2035, underscoring the nation's commitment to advancing space exploration and technology.