Lightweight solar cell module lowers space launch costs

Business news |
By eeNews Europe

Ascent’s module weighs 66% less than a comparable PV system using the highest-quality crystalline silicon and with far less design complexity. The elimination of two-thirds of the weight claims to be a critical improvement for satellites, space vehicles and space stations.

For space and near-space applications, power-to-weight ratio is a key performance metric. In addition to simplicity, Ascent’s modules also offer cost benefits. Depending on the application, such as low earth orbit all the way to manned flights, including contemplated missions to Mars, the fully burdened cost can be anywhere from thousands of dollars to $1 million per pound for a space launch.

“Ascent’s proprietary technology and unique manufacturing approach is ideally suited for space and near-space applications, as we are the only producer that utilizes both flexible copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) PV and monolithic integration. Our flexible substrate is the lightest of any in production, and monolithic integration results in a cell layout that is ideal for high intensity sunlight found in the space environment. Additionally, our modules can dramatically reduce the part count by over 90% compared to existing space solar array construction, thereby making assembly of large solar arrays for space and near-space applications easier, more cost effective, and more reliable,” said Dr. Joseph Armstrong, co-founder and CTO of Ascent Solar Technologies. “While the design specifications for the modules were optimized for the space environment, they will be very useful for other applications such as unmanned aircraft, drones, as well as other terrestrial applications.”

Victor Lee, President and CEO of Ascent Solar, commented: “This will help accelerate the roll out of our space and near-space PV applications with agencies with whom we have been working. Additionally, we believe there are several private organizations, both domestic and international, with ambitions in space and near-space markets that would be keenly interested in our superior power-to-weight ratio photovoltaics. This technical achievement is a testament to our strategic shift in market focus since 2012 and will continue to open up new and valuable premium market opportunities for Ascent, enabling the sale of very high margin products.”

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