Israeli scientists invent solar powered space travel
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Israeli scientists invent solar powered space travel

Ben-Gurion University researchers create system of tiny solar cells thinner than two sheets of paper which could fill the 'urgent need' for more cost-effective power generation

View of the full installation at which testing will be performed within the framework of NASA’s Materials International Space Station Experiment.
View of the full installation at which testing will be performed within the framework of NASA’s Materials International Space Station Experiment.

Israeli scientists have designed a system of tiny solar cells thinner than two sheets of paper for commercial space launches.

Professor Jeffrey Gordon and his team at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev (BGU) worked with US colleagues to develop the solar-power prototype which is now set to be tested at the International Space Station next year.

The BGU team said if successful it would meet “an urgent need” for more cost-effective solar power generation on space flights and be a “major step forward for private commercial space missions,” for which cost is a huge factor.

A cutaway drawing of the prototype, comprising the micro-cells, the molded reflective solar concentrator, and the thin protective glass.

They said the first-generation prototype – now in production at US naval research labs – was 1.7mm thick, but the second generation is only 0.17 mm thick. One sheet of paper has a thickness of 0.1mm.

The prototype, which was part-funded by an Israeli government grant, will now be subject to rigorous testing in space, to determine the system’s integrity and robustness when dealing with temperature extremes. If it passes then the tiny US-Israeli system could power future missions to Jupiter and Saturn.

The first prototype, comprising 90 miniaturized solar concentrators, with the photograph taken after the insertion of the first 12 solar cells (for which the concentrators appear black). An American quarter (25 cent coin) provides the scale.
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