Solar Technology Used to Power Small Satellites
Alta Devices has announced that Twiggs Space Lab, LLC (TSL), NearSpace Launch Inc. (NSL) and Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA) has selected the company’s solar cell technology to power small satellites.
The focus of these space companies is to broaden access to space for educational and commercial participants. They have chosen to use Alta Devices solar technology due to its unique modular, lightweight and high efficiency characteristics.
The founder of TSL, Bob Twiggs, states, “Our goal is to inspire future generations of engineers and scientists through innovation in the field of space. Alta Devices technology is easy to integrate, and its modular form factor is well-suited to the standardized dimensions of CubeSats. Our team is excited about the potential to innovate and rapidly prototype using this technology.”
CubeSats (satellites built around a 10x10x10cm building block) were originally developed for university students to participate in space research. The standard has now been adopted worldwide. Typically placed into low-earth orbits, they often have standardized or off-the-shelf components and have facilitated more affordable and easier access to space. CubeSats are driving new industries via the explosion of big data accessible from space.
All small satellites need solar cells to generate electrical power. Until now, no commercial solar technologies could match the improvement in cost, weight and ease of use that other components of small satellite technology have achieved: solar cells are traditionally expensive, fragile, rigid, and difficult to encapsulate and robustly attach to spacecraft. Alta Devices solar cells overcome these challenges because they are flexible, easy to encapsulate and mount, and provide high power conversion efficiencies. For example, Alta Devices cells can be mounted to low-mass deployable structures including coiled carbon fiber booms, flat-packed, polymer-based accordioned arrays, even inflatable structures, allowing creative design approaches to maximizing onboard solar power.
Jian Ding, CEO of Alta Devices, commented: “Innovation in solar is essential to the continued evolution of small satellite technology. Our thin film GaAs solar technology uniquely meets the challenge of limited surface area; it can be wrapped around curved surfaces yet is highly robust. Our small cell size enables high packing density. We are excited to be supplying solar cells to space pioneers TSL, NSL and Virginia Space as they plan their upcoming launches.”