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Game Changing Development

Micro-Concentrator Solar Array Technology for Extreme Environments

Completed Technology Project
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Project Description

Micro-Concentrator Solar Array Technology for Extreme Environments
Boeing proposes the development of a Self Tracking Advanced Reflective Concentrator (STARC) system comprised of novel MEMS-based Micro-Concentrator Modules (MCM). By design, MCMs are robust in high radiation and insensitive to LILT (Low Intensity, Low Temperature) environments. This disruptive technology addresses a critical need of commercial and government agencies that operate spacecraft in Earth orbits exposed to high levels of radiation. Likewise, it will enable future NASA robotic and human-exploration missions by increasing solar cell performance, and thus increasing mission life and/or decreasing mission mass/cost. The MCM technology was developed under Boeing internal funding and in cooperation with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). In recognition of this success, Boeing was recently awarded a $1M (12 months) NASA New Frontiers Homesteader contract to further advance this technology. Under this proposal, design maturation, system integration, and testing will be performed in a relevant environment to advance the technology readiness. In addition, detailed designs will be developed to illustrate full integration of the MCM into a scalable, spacecraft power system. The MCM technology, utilizes small-area solar cells (≤ 1 mm2) and MEMS micro-mirrors to generate a heliostat field resulting in concentration of sunlight on the cells. This concentration increases both the carrier density as well as the temperature of the solar cells. By mitigating deleterious low carrier effects, the MCM will have a higher efficiency, as compared to a comparable flat panel, solar cell operating in a LILT environment. By adjusting the mirror positions in response to the changing position of the array relative to the sun, the MCM is capable of active tracking. Furthermore, the internal tracking leads to a module acceptance angle significantly greater than any known concentrator system. The MCM will be integrated into a SCB (Solar Concentrator Blanket) capable of deployment with a DSS ROSA and/or Orbital ATK Megaflex system, both of which are TRL ≥ 6. More »

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