UTC Power fuel cells, which generate all of the Space Shuttle's electrical power, surpassed 100,000 hours of flight operation during the recently completed STS-123 mission by the Orbiter Endeavour. UTC Power is a United Technologies Corp. company and produces and maintains the Space Shuttle fuel cells under contract to United Space Alliance, NASA's prime Shuttle contractor.
Every U.S. manned space mission during the past four decades has used fuel cell power plants built by UTC Power. There are three fuel cells per Orbiter.
A fuel cell is a highly efficient power generating system that produces electricity directly by the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. Water produced as a byproduct provides drinking water for the astronauts.
Each fuel cell is capable of producing up to 12kW and is more than 70 percent efficient, which is two to three times better than a typical combustion engine. Cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen feed each of the self- contained units, which are installed under the payload bay, just behind the crew compartment.
"We are extremely proud of the durability and reliability of our fuel cells since the Shuttle era commenced in 1981," said Jan van Dokkum, company president. "While our technology roots are with the U.S. space program, ultra clean UTC Power fuel cell technology also is being effectively and efficiently applied today on the ground for buildings, cars and transit buses."