Future NASA solar electric propulsion (SEP) systems will require entirely new solar cell technologies that are high efficiency, lightweight, flexible as well as low cost. The very large solar cell arrays will also need new approaches to panel assembly to reduce weight and stowage volume during launch. The backside contact ELO solar cells to be developed in this program are an enabling technology that addresses many of these requirements.
There are many potential applications for this technology including commercial satellites and solar cell arrays for powering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). New generations of commercial satellites can benefit directly from technology advances made for future SEP solar arrays, including the lower cost, light weight and flexibility of MicroLink IMM ELO solar cells, as well as new approaches to panel assembly enabled by backside contacts. Solar arrays for UAVs are also an emerging market for lightweight, flexible, high-efficiency solar cells. The assembly of UAV solar arrays can be greatly simplified by attaching backside contact solar cells and bypass diodes directly to Kapton sheets with predefined and patterned metal interconnects.