Defence contract will advance photovoltaics

A team led by Boeing Advanced Systems has been awarded a DARPA contract for the first phase of a programme to develop a power system for spacecraft that will involve the use of solar concentrators.

The Fast Access Spacecraft Test project is a multiphase effort to design and develop a ground test prototype of a new High Power Generation Subsystem (HPGS) for spacecraft.

The Boeing HPGS is an integration of solar concentrator, power conversion and heat rejection systems supported by an ultra light weight structure and deployment system for point towards and tracking the sun. During phase 1, Boeing will develop a complete plan for a demonstration system.

When combined with electric thrusters, the system will produce a light weight power and propulsion system for satellites. Photovoltaics, which are widely seen as one of the most promising ways of providing ‘green’ energy began their real commercial development when seen as a way of powering satellites, and the Boeing solar concentrating technology remains one of the most efficient practical systems developed so far with a conversion efficiency of 36.9 per cent.

Other members of the team include DR Technologies, Northrop Grumman Astro Aerospace, Texas A&M University and Spectrolab, a Boeing subsidiary

Tom Shelley

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