NASA’s Game Changing Development (GCD) program has selected four proposals to develop solar cell technologies that can operate in the high-radiation and low-temperature conditions of deep space.
Deep space can get cold – very cold; down to -270.45 Celsius. High levels of radiation from cosmic rays, solar winds and storms can also play havoc with electrical equipment; with repairs being difficult or impossible to carry out.
Solar technology has been proving itself in space applications beyond Earth’s orbit for years. One of the Mars rovers has now been operating for 12 years, 48 times longer than the mission objective. In January, NASA’s Juno probe broke the record for humanity’s most distant solar powered spacecraft. Juno is heading for Jupiter, where sunlight intensity will be 25 times less than on Earth.
Past Jupiter, sunlight intensity continues to drop; meaning even more efficient solar cells will be required.
Thirteen proposals were received in response to the Extreme Environment Solar Power Appendix to the SpaceTech-REDDI-2015 NASA Research Announcement. The Initial contract awards are up to USD $400,000 each, which provides the teams with nine months of funding to work on system design, component testing and analysis.
The four proposals chosen:
- Transformational Solar Array for Extreme Environments – Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory of Laurel, Maryland
- Micro-Concentrator Solar Array Technology for Extreme Environments – The Boeing Company
- Solar Array for Low-intensity Low Temperature and High-Radiation Environments – NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Concentrator Solar Power Systems for Low-intensity Low Temperature and High Radiation Game Changing Technology Development – ATK Space Systems
NASA anticipates selecting two of the technologies after the nine months, which will receive up to $1.25 million to develop and test hardware. A third phase may see one of the projects selected to advance development and deliver scalable system hardware.
“The ultimate goal of increasing end of life performance and enhanced space power applications will greatly impact how we execute extended missions, especially to the outer planets,” said Lanetra Tate, the GCD program executive in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
The Game Changing Development Program is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.