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.
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.