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SBIR/STTR

Low Cost Automated Manufacture of PV Array Technology (P-NASA12-007-1), Phase II

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Spacecraft for NASA, DoD and commercial missions need higher power than ever before, with lower mass, compact stowage, and lower cost. While high efficiency, space-qualified solar cells are in themselves costly, integrating them into a high performance Photovoltaic Assembly (PVA) using conventional glassing, interconnecting, stringing, tiling and laydown techniques can double their cost in $/Watt. The cost of solar power could be significantly reduced if the design of the Photovoltaic Assembly could be modified, modularized and standardized to be compatible with automated electronic assembly and terrestrial solar panel manufacturing methods. Additional benefits of such an approach include higher quality and consistency, improved qualification traceability, and robustness on thin flexible as well as rigid arrays. During the Phase I effort Vanguard successfully demonstrated automated pick-and-place, electrical interconnection, and adhesive dispensing adapted to our lightweight flexible Thin Integrated Solar (THINS) PVA. THINS uses multi-cell covers and advanced interconnection and encapsulation technology, which enables automated integration of traditional and advanced space qualified solar cells. Engineering economic analysis showed the potential for >30% PVA $/Watt cost reduction, while the encapsulation approach associated with THINS showed enhanced durability in space environments, even at high voltages and extreme thermal cycle environments. During the Phase II Program we will further enhance our automated sub-module manufacturing, and scale the approach to the module level. Automated assembly scale up will be performed while integrating into an existing deployable space structure platform, enhancing the TRL of a high performance high power application of automated cell integration scalable from tens to hundreds of kilowatts, and providing a credible commercialization path, all while reducing solar array costs by more than $150/W. More »

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