One of the leading thin-film power solutions company, Hanergy Thin Film Power Group, has announced that its US-based subsidiary Alta Devices’ gallium arsenide solar cells are powering 60 small satellites, called ThinSats on a recent launch from NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
Powered by Alta Devices’ most efficient gallium arsenide solar cells, these small satellites will launch on the NG-11 mission from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Cygnus cargo spacecraft. ThinSats will carry various electromagnetic, radiation, and inertial sensors for scientific analysis of the atmosphere.
ThinSats are part of a program whose goal is to set a new standard for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) education in the US. Dozens of teams of high school and college students were engaged in the preparation of the satellite hardware and analysis. The satellites will be deployed into low earth orbit and allow live data transmission. In the future, these ThinSats can be deployed into constellations and expanded to larger sizes for hosting larger payloads.
The ThinSat Program is managed and funded by Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (Virginia Space) with Twiggs Space Lab (TSL) operating as the general contractor, NearSpace Launch (NSL) the primary spacecraft designer and manufacturer, and Alta Devices the provider of solar cells.
Hank Voss co-founder of NSL said, “Satellites need solar cells to generate electrical power. Until now, no commercial solar technologies could match the improvement in cost, weight, and ease of use that other components of small satellite technology have achieved.”
“The majority of solar cells were expensive, fragile, rigid, and difficult to encapsulate and robustly attach to spacecraft,” Voss specifically pointed out.
Alta Devices solar cells overcome these challenges for the reason that they are flexible, easy to encapsulate and mount, and provide high power conversion efficiencies.
Commenting on the achievement, Jian Ding, CEO of Alta Devices said, “We’re excited that our flexible gallium arsenide solar cells are powering the ThinSat Design on this launch. At Alta Devices, we’re empowering autonomy, as our cells provide a new level of mechanical and design flexibility for the small satellite industry.”
Alta Devices cells can be mounted to low-mass deployable structures including coiled carbon fiber booms, flat-packed, polymer-based accordion arrays, even inflatable structures, allowing creative design approaches to maximising onboard solar power.
Earlier in November 2018, Alta Devices’ solar modules were chosen by NASA for international space station testing, to evaluate Alta’s technology for future NASA low-Earth orbit missions, including powering CubeSats.
In 2014, Alta Devices, a California-based company, was acquired by Chinas Hanergy Group and became a subsidiary of Hanergy.