27 January 2010


Emcore awarded PV contract for NASA Crew Exploration Vehicle project

Emcore Corp of Albuquerque, NM, USA, which manufactures components and subsystems for the broadband, fiber-optic, and solar power markets, has been awarded a contract by ATK Space Systems of Goleta, CA to manufacture, test and deliver solar panels for its UltraFlex solar arrays, which will be used to power the Orion spacecraft being developed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company for the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The period of performance for the first two vehicles runs through 2013 and is valued at $9–11m. The flight solar array system is expendable for each Orion mission, and continuous production is expected to run through 2020 and beyond.

The Orion crew exploration vehicle (CEV) program will serve as NASA’s next-generation human space transportation system, replacing the current Space Shuttle and providing systems capable of transferring astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), the Moon and other destinations within the solar system. NASA expects to order multiple Orion Constellation vehicles over the next decade.

Emcore’s latest-generation ZTJ triple-junction solar cells will be designed into the solar panels delivered to ATK. With a beginning-of-life (BOL) conversion efficiency of 30%, the ZTJ is the highest-performance space-qualified multi-junction solar cell available, claims the firm.

“The ATK UltraFlex solar array design will be providing 14kW of power per shipset with superior performance characteristics and mission enabling features, including ultra-lightweight, high strength, high stiffness, and compact stowage volume,” says Dave Messner, VP & general manager of ATK’s Solar Array and Deployables site. “The Emcore solution will enable ATK to provide the UltraFlex solar array configured for Orion so that it will provide over 20 times the strength and 10 times the stiffness of our conventional rigid panel solar arrays, at less than one-third the weight,” he adds.

“The solar panels for this program will provide the critical power needs required for the next phase of NASA's human exploration program,” comments Christopher Larocca, chief operating officer of Emcore (which claims to be the world’s largest manufacturer of high-efficiency radiation-hard solar cells for space power applications). “We have enjoyed a long-term relationship with ATK Space Systems,” he adds.

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