This project proposes to develop a relocatable lightweight ~50kW-class solar array mounting structure where ultra-lightweight structural members will be used with increased stiffness for power generation at the lunar South Pole. Multiple pieces of PV blankets with the width of 4 m are mounted on the ultra-lightweight structure and provide a total area of 216 m2 and power output of ~60KW with the III-V PV cells at an efficiency of ~30% at the standard test condition (STC). During the installation, a stable base will first be set up with a double tripod, which will support the vertical axis with a motor for solar tracking. A foldable frame will be erected with an inflatable envelope as well as an actuator in the horizontal direction to reduce the dimension of the base and provide support to the solar blankets. Then horizontal beams are unfolded, and solar blankets will be raised and hung on the beams. Each blanket is attached to a smart mounting fixture to provide in-plane rigidity, so that the load will be transferred to the base through multiple loading paths for the stability and rigidity of the large PV array. This smart mounting system enables novel packaging, deployment, retraction, and modularity concepts and can be scaled up for higher PV capacity at the lunar South Pole. The innovations in materials discovery and structural design can be brought back to the earth for temporary solar array for shading and energy supply to remote communities, or power supplies to rescue sites after extreme weather events. The model and algorithm for virtual experiments will advance the state of the art of the material and structural design and analysis.
A lightweight, vertically deployed, retractable 50-kW-class (~60-kW) solar array is proposed for surface photovoltaic energy harvesting near the lunar South Pole, which can meet diverse needs including lunar bases, dedicated power landers, and rovers. This robust, lightweight, re-deployable solar array is applicable to different solar modules as well. The success of this project will lead to new technology for the next generation of solar arrays for the NASA Artemis Program.
The highly efficient lightweight thin film cell is ideal for unmanned aerial vehicles; the vertical structure can be used for energy harvesting and shading for residential and commercial buildings; the smart mounting fixture can be used for building integrated photovoltaic systems; the ultra-lightweight composite can be used for vehicles, naval vessels, aircrafts, and building structures.