Extreme Environments Solar Power

Technicians test the deployment of a massive solar array that will power future NASA spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

Technicians test the deployment of a massive solar array that will power future NASA spacecraft. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin

The Extreme Environments Solar Power (EESP) project goal is to develop advanced photovoltaic technology.

The Extreme Environments Solar Power project seeks to develop solar cell/solar array design concept technologies for space power applications in high radiation and low solar flux environments. NASA missions focused on outer planets (e.g., Jupiter) are subjected to intense radiation while experiencing less than 10 percent of the solar flux relative to a mission in the general vicinity of Earth. Under these conditions, present solar array technology is not as efficient in converting the sun’s energy and the solar array performance degrades quickly due to the additional radiation exposure.

The EESP technology development effort is generically applicable to all future space missions to low light, low temperature, and/or high radiation environments, such as the outer solar system and particularly the proximity of Jupiter. In addition, improved solar array performance in high radiation environments is applicable to solar electric propulsion (SEP) efforts to transfer spacecraft from low earth orbit to higher orbits. Due to the longer transfer times, the spacecraft and solar arrays will experience significant radiation exposure which reduces power generation performance. The results of this effort may help mitigate the degradation.

The development of new solar cell and array-level component technologies focused on these issues 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.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
Lee Mason (lee.s.mason@nasa.gov Fred Elliott (frederick.w.elliott@nasa.gov)