SOUTH WINDSOR, Conn. – UTC Power and Hamilton Sundstrand, United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) companies, today will celebrate the end of an era when they ship the last Space Shuttle Orbiter fuel cell powerplant to United Space Alliance, NASA’s prime shuttle contractor. Hundreds of employees and retirees will gather at UTC Power to mark the important milestone.
Every manned space mission since 1966 has used fuel cell power plants built and maintained by UTC Power in South Windsor, Conn. Hamilton Sundstrand assumed program management responsibility for the shuttle fuel cell program in 2009.
Putting a man on the moon in 1969 would not have been possible without fuel cells, which are highly efficient power generating systems that produce electricity from the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen. The high energy density of fuel cells compared to batteries reduces launch weight, and the water they generate provides drinking water for the astronauts. The first flight of the Apollo fuel cell powerplant occurred in 1966 and there were 17 other missions, including the first lunar landing in July 1969.
In 1973, UTC Power was declared the winner of the competition for the Space Shuttle Orbiter fuel cell powerplant and began developing a new fuel cell system. The first flight of the Space Shuttle was in April of 1981 and UTC Power fuel cells have now spent more than 110,000 hours aboard Shuttle Orbiters in space.
“We are extremely proud of the durability and reliability our spacecraft fuel cells have demonstrated since 1966,” said Joe Triompo, Vice President and General Manager, UTC Power. “The company’s roots are with the U.S. space program, but we’ve been busy ever since applying ultra clean fuel cell technology here on earth for stationary and transportation applications.”
Each Space Shuttle Orbiter has three fuel cells onboard that provide all of the shuttle’s electric power and drinking water for the astronauts. The fuel cells fly an average of five missions before being returned to South Windsor for maintenance and overhaul. Each is capable of producing up to 12 kilowatts of continuous power 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.
UTC Power is the world leader in developing and producing fuel cells that generate power for buildings and for transportation, space and defense applications. For more information, please visit www.utcpower.com.