NASA is working on sending a solar-powered electricity generator to the ISS

Israel recently developed a mini solar-powered generator and NASA will send it to the International Space Station as soon as possible in 2020.

The prototype

The prototype of the generator is made out of a compact, low-mass, molded glass solar concentrator, featuring a monolithic integration of transfer-printed micro-scale photovoltaic cells. Each of the cells is manufactured out of a diverse roster of materials, which, when combined, can efficiently convert light to electrical energy.

The prototype outputted an immense amount of power, in an unprecedented way, while also having a very good value for tolerance: errors from pointing at the sun, thermal distortion and other possible causes of errors don’t affect the performance of the generator drastically.

Sizing

The generator is 1.7mm thick and has 0.65mm solar panels. The team is working on a next generation prototype at the moment, a model which should be able to achieve even greater power output, will be set on the usage of solar panels about 0.17mm wide, which are undergoing development at the US Naval Research Laboratory. The second generation generator will amount for a thickness of less than one millimeter.

Usage

The generator will be sent to the International Space Station next year for proper field testing. Future iterations will be used by various space agencies in missions that require high power for electric propulsion alongside other power-demanding applications. 

It’s believed that electric propulsion is the future for space missions. However, the technology isn’t exactly new, as Russian-made satellites have been utilizing electric propulsion for decades now.

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