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Center Innovation Fund: GRC CIF

Dust Abrasion Damage on Martian Solar Arrays

Active Technology Project

Project Introduction

Dust Abrasion Damage on Martian Solar Arrays
As much as it is different, Mars is similar to Earth in the fact that erosion due to dust abrasion occurs on both planets. Studies, both analytical and experimental, have been done in the past to quantify this erosion and its effect on Mars surface systems. There are currently investigations for new concepts for a solar based power system for future human crewed missions on the surface of Mars. These arrays would have to be orders of magnitude larger than any used previously on the surface and would need to be well understood in terms of performance and reliability. This project aims to provide more insight into the durability of such systems by experimentally abrading solar array components under expected mission conditions. We’ve observed dust accumulation on solar array surfaces on the Mars rovers and have seen its removal by dust devils and high winds. We have also seen the amount of dust in the atmosphere on regular days and during dust storms which will obscure much of the light that reaches the solar arrays. These factors are relatively well modelled and can be applied to the large arrays being considered for future human crewed Mars missions. However, the new lightweight flexible materials that will make up these arrays which have not yet been proven in dusty, high wind conditions. The goal is to experimentally determine the effect of high speed Mars dust hitting solar cell and array components. More »

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