NASA has vital interest in photovoltaic power system developments for high-power solar electric propulsion missions. Technology Roadmaps state a need for 25-150 kW to 1 MW space solar arrays for electric propulsion systems and planetary surface elements. Target performance metrics include >100W/kg specific power and >40kW/m3 stowed volume efficiency.
The problem of realizing such arrays are twofold: (i) High cost. Solar cell/array technologies can deliver such power density, but at unacceptable $1,000/W cost. (ii) Deployment of very large solar arrays. The largest array in space on the ISS consists of eight 15 kW units totaling 120kW power. Space Shuttle was used for installation and stowed volume efficiency was only 12 kW/m3.
In this project Regher Solar and “Made In Space” propose a novel approach to large space solar arrays, that reduces system cost 10X, and delivers 100kW/m3 stowed volume efficiency by combining a solar blanket based on Regher’s ultrathin silicon solar cells and robotic system, that manufactures solar array frame on-orbit from raw materials and deploys solar blankets on the frame.
Advantages compared to baseline solar blanket/deployment technologies include: (1) decoupled solar blanket design from the array design and automated mass production of solar blanket, that fits a variety of arrays; (2) high stowed volume efficiency >100 W/m3 due to no need in mechanical deployment systems.
Phase I will validate modular solar blanket technology. A prototype mini-blanket will be designed, fabricated and tested by Regher. Made-in-Space will identify the materials suitable for in-situ solar array frame construction, design the frame for different array sizes, estimate the final array cost.
Phase II will (i)fabricate full-size blankets and demonstrate in-situ manufacturing of the array prototype in the Lab on Earth, (ii)plan the experiment in space, (iii)partner with customers for alpha testing in space.
Advanced photovoltaic (PV) power generation and enabling power system technologies are needed for improvements in capability and reliability of space exploration missions. PV technologies must enable low-cost, low mass and higher efficiency to support solar electric propulsion missions. The potential low costs and high manufacturability Space Solar Arrays Based on Si Blankets and In-Orbit Array Construction will further remove the solar array as a cost driver, while radiation tolerant PV will lead to more robust space systems.
Higher efficiency low costs Si blankets are capable to compete for commercial applications through the development of high performance (W/kg, W/m2,$/W) Si blankets, for space applications in military and commercial sectors. All satellites suffer from solar cell radiation damage. These rad-hard Si blankets will reduce solar array cost and weight for space power generation requirements.