The Japanese space agency, JAXA, will test Ascent Solar’s lightweight, flexible solar cells on its upcoming Jovian Space Mission. The cells will power the unique satellite's operations while the solar sail will provide propulsion for the mission.
The lightweight, flexible solar cells will be integrated into Japan’s space sail technology, or Japan’s IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun), first employed during JAXA’s Venus Climate Orbiter mission in 2010. The space sail uses the sun’s photons to propel the deep space vehicle.
“Missions of this type traditionally use fragile crystalline solar cells that require additional structure for protection. Our lightweight, flexible technology can take advantage of novel array construction that provide higher performance in a more economical package. JAXA has decided to investigate lower-cost flexible thin-film solar technology in conjunction with a solar sail concept that was first demonstrated on their IKAROS project in 2010,” said Dr. Joseph Armstrong, Chief Technology Officer and founder of Ascent Solar.
Ascent’s solar technologies are usually more terrestrial-bound. This year, for instance, it introduced the Kickr 7 FL solar charger weighing just 5 ounces that provide 6.5 megawatts of solar charging ability. But its copper-iridium-selenide (CIGS) solar cells were selected for optimum performance after being tested under extreme environmental conditions similar to that in space.
JAXA chose to collaborate with Ascent because its PV solar cells continued to function well after they were tested under “orbit like” conditions. The solar cells were successfully subjected to intense radiation and mechanical testing below -146°C (-231°F) and up to +190°C (+374 °F). The solar cells also performed well with only 4 percent of the sunlight usually used while orbiting the earth.
"We are very honored to be selected to work with JAXA in anticipation of the upcoming mission," said Victor Lee, president and CEO of Ascent Solar. "Interest from JAXA in our unique flexible CIGS PV product for high-performance aerospace applications is encouraging, as we believe it will increase awareness of what Ascent's PV has to offer in this challenging aerospace market."
NASA continues to investigate the possibilities of solar through development and research of aerospace solar technologies. It recently awarded four organizations with funds to pursue advanced solar technologies, like creating a micro-concentrator solar array technology.Tweet