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Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Tech Transfer

Flexible Automation for Final Assembly of Blanket Arrays

Completed Technology Project

Project Description

Flexible Automation for Final Assembly of Blanket Arrays Project Image
In Topic Z1.01, NASA seeks advanced photovoltaic technologies that can deliver cost, reliability, mass, volume and efficiency gains over current solutions. Future photovoltaic systems range in size from Cubesat-class to International Space Station sized arrays. Operational domains range from low Earth orbit to interplanetary distances. Power levels may reach 100's of kilowatts operating at several hundred volts. Specific power of greater than 130 w/kg, and stowed volumes 4 times denser than the current state of the art are required. These functional parameters drive the need for large flexible blanket arrays comprised of solar cell modules assembled in myriad configurations. Manufacturers of flexible solar arrays currently use manual processes to accomplish final assembly. NASA's cost and reliability goals require new approaches to manufacturing. Building on recent successes in flexible substrate photovoltaics, our proposed effort creates a preliminary design for an automated final assembly manufacturing cell for flexible blanket solar arrays. Modular, scalable, and flexible, the proposed system incorporates the latest in machine vision, material handling, laser welding, and automated test capabilities. When fully implemented in Phase II, the system will deliver immediate return on NASA's investment through labor reductions and reliability improvements. Missions from across NASA's entire portfolio will benefit from the significant cost savings, allowing fiscal resources to be focused on the primary scientific or operational goal. More »

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Primary U.S. Work Locations and Key Partners

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