Physics:List of spacecraft powered by non-rechargeable batteries

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This is a list of spacecraft powered by non-rechargeable batteries. While most spacecraft are powered by longer-lasting power sources such as solar cells or radioisotope thermoelectric generators, which can provide power for years to decades, some have been powered by primary (non-rechargeable) electrochemical cells, which provide runtimes of minutes to months. This is typically done only on spacecraft that are planned to operate for only a short time, even if they must travel for a long time before being activated. Some spacecraft classes where this applies are atmospheric probes, short-duration landers, and technology demonstrators. Some early Earth satellites, such as the first Sputnik and Explorer satellites, also used primary batteries, before solar panels were widely adopted.


Examples with non-rechargeable battery power only
Year[lower-alpha 1] Spacecraft Role Battery life[lower-alpha 2] Type of Battery Parent Notes
1999 Deep Space 2 Scientific landers (2) 1–3 days (planned)[1] Lithium–thionyl chloride[1] Mars Polar Lander Impact landers for Mars, lost during EDL
2016 ExoMars Schiaparelli Technology demonstration lander 2–8 Martian sols (planned)[2] ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Lander for Mars, lost during EDL but considered a successful demo
1958 Explorer 1 Scientific satellite 111 days (actual) Zinc–mercury oxide (Zn–HgO)[3] Earth/space science[4]
1960 Explorer 8 Scientific satellite 54 days (actual) Mercury[5] Earth science: ionospheric properties and micrometeorites
1966 Explorer 17 (AE-A) Scientific satellite 98 days (actual) Earth science: upper atmospheric properties
1995 Galileo Probe Scientific atmospheric probe

≥61.4 minutes after entry, 6 hours after waking up (planned)[6][7]

Lithium–sulfur dioxide[8][9]
Ca/CaCrO4 thermal (to fire pyrotechnics)[9]
Galileo Atmospheric entry into Jupiter
2004[lower-alpha 3] Huygens Scientific atmospheric probe 153 minutes or ≤3 hours (planned) Lithium–sulfur dioxide[10] Cassini Landed on Saturn's moon Titan
1959 Luna 1 Scientific lunar impactor (planned); scientific lunar flyby probe (actual) (closest lunar approach was 34 hours after launch) Silver–zinc, mercury oxide[11] Intended to crash into the Moon but missed. Performed lunar flyby instead. Now derelict in heliocentric orbit
1959 Luna 2 Scientific lunar impactor >1 day, 14 hours, 22 minutes, 42 seconds (actual, from launch to impact)[12] Succeeded in impacting the Moon, where Luna 1 had failed
1966 Luna 10 Scientific lunar orbiter 219 transmissions over 460 orbits (actual) Studied radiation, fields, particles, meteorites, gravity[13]
1966 Luna 11 Scientific lunar orbiter Lunar orbit[14]
1976 Luna 24 Scientific lunar lander with sample return [15]
2018 MASCOT Scientific rover >17 hours (actual)

<17 hours (planned)[16]

Hayabusa2 Hopping rover that landed on asteroid 162173 Ryugu
1972 Mars 2 and 3 landers Scientific landers with tethered rovers (1 each) Mars 2 and 3 orbiters Rovers were ski walking type and were not deployed due to lander failures[17]
1961 Mercury-Scout 1 Technical satellite 18.5 hours (planned)[18] Launch failure[18]
1959 Pioneer 4 Scientific lunar flyby probe 3 days, 10 hours Mercury[19] Derelict in heliocentric orbit
1978 Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Scientific atmospheric probes (1 large, 3 small) >54 minutes (Large Probe actual)

>53 minutes (North Probe actual)

123 minutes (Day Probe actual)

>56 minutes (Night Probe actual)

Silver–zinc (AgZn)[20] Pioneer Venus Bus Atmospheric entry into Venus. Day Probe survived impact and presumably died due to battery exhaustion. There was also a solar-powered bus that entered the atmosphere along with the probes
1989 Phobos Hopper (Prop-F) Scientific lander 3 hours (planned) Phobos 2 Hopping lander for Phobos. Phobos 2 was lost en route to Phobos due to computer failure
1957 Sputnik Technology demonstration satellite 22 days/326 orbits (actual)[21] Silver–zinc (AgZn)[22] Earth satellite
2006 SuitSat-1 Technical/commemorative satellite between 2 orbits/~3 hours and 15 days (actual) ISS Earth satellite
1966–1969 Venera atmospheric probes Scientific atmospheric probes >53 minutes (Venera 5 actual)

>51 minutes (Venera 6 actual)

Veneras 3–6 were atmospheric probes. Venera 3 failed upon entry. Venera 4 failed during descent due to overpressure. Veneras 5 and 6 were originally planned as landers, but changed to atmospheric probes due to learning about Venus's atmospheric pressure. Their parachutes were shrunk to increase descent speed, so as to reach crush depth before battery exhaustion
1970, 1972 Venera 7 and 8 landers Scientific landers 58 minutes total (Venera 7 actual)[lower-alpha 4][23]>50 minutes after landing (Venera 8 actual, until failure due to environmental conditions)

greater than up to 127 minutes (actual)

Venera 8–14 buses Most Venera landers' relay craft passed out of radio link range/geometry before the landers overheated or ran out of battery energy, rather than data return duration being limited by overheating as is commonly believed
1975–1982 Venera 9 to 14 landers Scientific landers >53 minutes after landing (Venera 9 actual)

>65 minutes after landing (Venera 10 actual)

>95 minutes after landing (Venera 11 actual)

>110 minutes after landing (Venera 12 actual)

>127 minutes after landing (Venera 13 actual)

>57 minutes after landing (Venera 14 actual)

30 minutes after landing (Venera 9–12 planned)

32 minutes after landing (Venera 13 and 14 planned)

1985 Vega 1 and 2 landers Scientific landers Vega 1 and 2 buses
1985 Vega 1 and 2 balloons Scientific balloon aerobots 48–52 hours (expected)[24] Lithium[24]
Examples with a supplementary power
What Parent Type of Battery Secondary Notes
Luna 9 Solar[25] Lunar landing (1966)
Sojourner rover Mars Pathfinder Lithium-thionyl chloride (LiSOCL2)[26] Solar Roved Mars (1997)
Sputnik 3 - Silver-Zinc[27] Solar (Experiment) Earth satellite
Philae Rosetta Lithium-thionyl chloride (LiSOCl2) (900 W*h)
Lithiu-ion (Li-ion) (100 W*h)
Solar Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (2014)[28]
Vanguard 1 Mercury[29] Earth satellite (1958)

Primary power comes from a chemical battery, but a secondary system exists. For example, Luna 9 ran out of power after three days.[25]


  • early Gemini with on silver-zinc (Ag-Zn),[30] later hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells[31]
  • Mercury
  • Apollo Lunar Lander, Ag-Zn[32]
  • Soyuz 7K-T
  • Vostok
  • Voskhod

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Mars Polar Lander/Deep Space 2
  2. Patterson, Sean (8 November 2013). "ESA Names ExoMars Lander 'Schiaparelli'". Space Fellowship. 
  3. G. Halpert, et al.- Batteries and Fuel Cells in Space
  4. Universe Today- Explorer 1
  5. Explorer 8
  6. "Galileo Probe Mission Events". 2007-01-02. 
  7. "Galileo Probe Entry Timeline". 
  8. "NASA Quest". 
  9. 9.0 9.1 B. Bienstock - Pioneer Venus and Galileo Entry Probe Heritage
  10. Huygen's Test - ESA
  11. "Luna - Exploring the Moon". 
  12. "USSR - Luna 2". 
  13. "NSSDC - Luna 10". 
  14. "NSSDC - Luna 11". 
  15. "Gunter - Luna Ye-8-5M". 
  16. Lander, MASCOT (2018-10-04). "All done with work! Oh my... can that be right? I explored Ryugu for more than 17 hours. That is more than my team expected. Do I get paid overtime for this? #asteroidlanding" (in en). 
  17. "NASA - NSSDCA - Spacecraft - Details". 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "Mercury-Scout 1 (MS 1, MNTV 1)". 
  19. NSSDC - Pioneer 4
  20. J. Givens - Pioneer Venus & Galileo Probe Development
  21. "Reds Say Sputnik's Batteries Worn Out". Argus-Leader. Associated Press (Sioux Falls, South Dakota): p. 1. October 26, 1957. 
  22. "russianspaceweb". 
  23. "Larry Klaes, THE SOVIETS AND VENUS, PART 1, 1993.". "Sixty kilometers (thirty-six miles) above the planet, the vessel's main parachute popped free and the probe began transmitting information about the thick night air around it. Then, thirty-five minutes later, VENERA 7 suddenly went silent. Without any warning, something had apparently destroyed the capsule. Soviet controllers back on Earth were shocked. They had thought for certain that this time every possible contingency about Venus had been accounted for with room to spare. Fortunately the controllers had kept tracking and recording the mission even after the apparent signal loss. Several weeks later, a very pleasant discovery was made during a search through the recording tapes: VENERA 7 had reached the Venerean crust intact and continued to send data for twenty-three minutes from the southwestern section of Tinatin Planitia. It seems the capsule had somehow been knocked over upon landing, causing its transmitter antenna to point in an unfavorable direction. The lander's signal strength was only one percent of what it was during the descent through the atmosphere. The lander's transmissions became almost indistinguishable from the regular background radio noise." 
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Kramnev, et al. - The Vega balloons (Page 2)". 
  25. 25.0 25.1 "The Mission of Luna 9". 
  26. "A Description of the Sojourner rover". 
  27. "Sputnik 3". 
  28. Ball, et al. - Planetary Landers and Entry Probes - Page 244
  29. Early Unmanned NASA Craft (1957–1968)
  30. "NSSDC - Gemini 4". 
  31. "NSSDC - Gemini 8". 
  32. Ball, et al. - Planetary Landers and Entry Probes - Page 102

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