Fuel cell payload
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has achieved a significant milestone with the successful flight test of a 100 W class Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell based Power System (FCPS) onboard its orbital platform, POEM3. Launched as part of PSLV-C58 on January 1, 2024, this breakthrough experiment marks a pivotal step in assessing the operation of Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel cells in space and gathering crucial data for the design of systems for future space missions.
During the short-duration test aboard POEM, the FCPS generated 180 W power by harnessing Hydrogen and Oxygen gases stored onboard in high-pressure vessels. The success of this experiment provides a wealth of data on the performance of various static and dynamic systems integral to the power system, shedding light on the intricate physics involved.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells, employed in this innovative system, directly produce electricity from Hydrogen and Oxygen gases, yielding pure water and heat as byproducts. Operating on electrochemical principles rather than combustion reactions, these fuel cells prove highly efficient. Notably, their emission-free nature, with water as the sole byproduct, positions them as ideal candidates for space missions involving human presence. The ability to simultaneously generate electric power, water, and heat makes them versatile for meeting multiple mission requirements.
Beyond space exploration, Fuel Cells hold substantial potential for societal applications, offering a clean energy solution for various types of vehicles and standby power systems. Their efficiency, comparable range, and rapid fuel recharge time distinguish them from conventional engines, presenting a promising avenue for emission-free transportation.
Fuel Cells emerge as an ideal power source for space stations, providing not only power but also pure water—a critical resource in space environments. ISRO’s successful flight test of the Fuel Cell in PSLV-C58 marks a leap forward in advancing clean and efficient energy solutions for both space exploration and terrestrial applications, ushering in a new era of sustainable technology.