Linda S. Ellis
NASA Lewis Team Powers Antarctic Research Endeavor
Cleveland, OH -- A team of NASA Lewis researchers recently provided all the electric power for a group of scientists working
in Antarctica, one of the most brutal environments on Earth.
The solar electric power system supplies electricity for personal computers and printers, lab equipment, lights, fans and even a
"When the NASA/National Science Foundation (NSF) scientists needed an environmentally friendly and dependable power
system, they approached the Lewis Research Center because we are in the power systems business," explains Lisa Kohout. She is a member of the multidisciplinary team that the Lewis Power Technology Division set up to formulate and advocate demonstration projects such as the one needed in Antarctica.
Conceived and built within 15 months, the 1.5 kilowatt modular power station has supplied the Antarctic research team with
power since October 1992. Consisting of silicon solar cells to capture the sun's energy coupled with a battery pack and an electrical distribution system, the power system has actually exceeded performance expectations.
The scientists researching Lake Hoare, an ice-covered lake in the valleys of southern Victoria Land, Antarctica, were originally using
diesel generators. Although efficient, there was concern about the environmental impact of fuel spills and emissions. The scientists wanted to see a demonstration of an environmentally friendly power system that could be used at the field camps and be a prototype for larger scale bases.
"The Lake Hoare researchers now have more power than they expected. As a result, they will be able to run more scientific
equipment at the site to increase their analytical capability," Kohout explains. "They also appreciate the quietness of the system. The
constant noise from the generators had proven to be very disturbing. Our system allows them to enjoy the tranquility of Antarctica."
The joint NASA/NSF Antarctic Space Analog Program was begun in 1990 to unlock the potential of the icy Antarctic environment to
serve as an ideal location to test hardware and habitats to be used in a Mars mission.
For NASA this program provides opportunities to test and verify proposed approaches to planetary surface systems and operational
techniques for future planetary missions in a remote and hostile environment such as would be faced during Mars missions.
NASA's Lewis Research Center has been in the vanguard of advancing power technology since the first U.S. spacecraft was launched
in the late 1950s. Its solar cell research and development has produced a sound technological base for a broad range of space applications as well as terrestrial.
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