Batteries provided power to activate parachutes to enable a flawless landing

With its safe return powered by Saft’s lithium sulfur dioxide batteries, NASA’s $212 million Stardust spacecraft and capsule has been orbiting in space for nearly seven years and is anxiously awaited back home. Last weekend the spacecraft released its sample return capsule, which re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere with a safe landing in Utah. The capsule carried particles collected by Stardust as it passed through the coma (the halo of particles around the head of the comet) of Comet Wild 2 in January 2004. Stardust has now delivered to Earth the first samples ever collected from a comet.

The successful landing of the Stardust sample return capsule is due in part to the powerful Saft lithium sulfur dioxide batteries, which provided power to activate the mechanism that released the parachutes for landing. Then Saft’s batteries powered the signal for beaconing in order for NASA to locate the probe out in the desert.

“It is an honor to contribute Saft battery technology to this successful mission and we are excited to see how this new data will further our understanding of how the solar system formed,” said Saft America President and CEO, Dr. Khushrow Press. “What a tremendous accomplishment for the NASA space program and for Saft.”

The Stardust mission was launched from Cape Canaveral in February 1999 atop a Delta 2 rocket. Since then the spacecraft has flown 2.88 billion miles, circling the solar system three times and venturing farther from the sun (253 million miles) than any other solar-powered spacecraft.

Additionally, in the late winter and spring of 2000, and again in the late summer and fall of 2002, Stardust opened its collector and scooped up particles of interstellar dust drifting through the solar system.

Saft’s batteries were chosen for their unique performance, with minimal voltage delay – providing instantaneous power. Only Saft batteries could meet the challenging performance requirements of the Stardust, not only in terms of voltage delay, but also in terms of the robustness of the battery mechanically to maintain power for nearly seven years and guarantee a safe landing for the probe and its invaluable data.

The Stardust probe had two Saft batteries comprised of four SO2 D cells to power the probe for the landing and then the communication phase of the project. The lithium sulfur dioxide technology in these cells is of the same high performance used in many portable applications, such as the BA-5590 battery used to power military communications equipment.

“The contribution to the Stardust mission is an appropriate tribute to the Saft professionals who supported these missions in Cockeysville, MD, and at our manufacturing facility in Valdese, NC,” said Press.

About Saft

Saft (Euronext: Saft) is a world specialist in the design and manufacture of high-tech batteries for industry. Saft batteries are used in high performance applications such as industrial infrastructure and processes, transportation, space and defense. Saft is the world’s leading manufacturer of nickel cadmium batteries for industrial applications and of primary lithium batteries for a wide range of end markets. The group is also the European leader for specialized advanced technologies for the defense and space industries. With approximately 4,000 employees worldwide, Saft is present in 17 countries. Its 16 manufacturing sites and extensive sales network enable the group to serve its customers worldwide.

For more information, visit Saft at