JOPLIN, Mo. — After traveling millions of miles, four items built by a Joplin business are back home.
Along the way, they’ve played a role in taking thousands of “out of this world” pictures.
The Hubble Space Telescope, named after astronomer and Marshfield Missouri native Edwin Hubble, has been taking photos of the cosmos since it was launched in 1990.
It draws its power from its solar array when it’s in direct sunlight.
When it’s behind the earth, and in total darkness, it’s running off of rechargeable nickel-hydrogen batteries built right here in Joplin. But for that project Eagle Picher had to build four modules, two of which went inside the spacecraft. The other two were tested prior to launching.
These two modules actually make it onto the telescope, while two others were strictly used for testing.
All four of them, which contain three batteries a piece, have been permanently returned to the company that built them.
Two of the men who helped build and test the batteries look fondly back on that experience. Bob Baker, has since retired from the company but is grateful to see them again for the first time since astronauts in the Space Shuttle Program removed them and replaced them with a second set of E.P. batteries.
“Oh there were at least well over a hundred people at Eagle Picher at the “C” Street facility primarily. People building the positive electrodes, people building the negative electrodes, and the very elemental parts of the cells inside the batteries, inside the modules,” said Bob Baker, Former Project Engineer.
But space is a very cold place. The batteries inside these modules have to endure temperatures that range from 86 degrees Celcius all the way down to negative 40 degrees Celcius each and every day.
“Capacity measurements during that, environmental testing, like we would vibrate the batteries to simulate a launch profile, just various tests like that that all the batteries undergo to make sure their flight worthy,” said Kevin Ames, Former Test Technician.
The telescope is now on its third, and most likely last, set of E.P. batteries since there isn’t a replacement program for the space shuttle, which was discontinued in 2011.
Without new batteries, the telescope will eventually fall out of its orbit and burn up as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
“Yea so there are not very many employers in this area that can claim the Hubble heritage or any, you know, from the space standpoint so there is a tremendous amount of pride,” said Ames.