NASA to send prototype solar-power generator to ISS

An Israeli developed prototype solar-power generator will be sent by the US space agency NASA to the International Space Station, Ben Gurion University (BGU) in southern Israel announced on Monday.

The new generator offers a major step forward for private commercial space missions, as the private space market is a rapidly growing billion-dollar industry with dozens of corporate players, according to the university.

The new generator was developed at BGU by Jeffrey Gordon and his US. colleagues. Its design and experimental verification were published in the journal Optics Express.

The generator is set to be sent to the ISS with NASA’s first launch of 2020 for testing it under cosmic radiation and the enormous temperature swings in extraterrestrial operation, reports Xinhua news agency.

This first-generation prototype is less than 1.7 millimeters thick, with solar cells only 0.65 millimeters on a side, according to BGU.

It comprises a compact, low-mass, molded-glass solar concentrator bonded to a monolithic integration of transfer-printed micro-scale solar cells, each comprising several different materials.

A special virtue of the invention is its liberal optical tolerance for accommodating errors in pointing at the sun, structural vibration and thermal distortion, while providing high specific power.

These days, a second generation that can increase specific power even further is now being designed by the same team, predicated on more efficient solar cells that are only 0.17 millimeters on a side.