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19 November 2018

NASA sends Ascent Solar’s lightweight thin-film CIGS to ISS

© Semiconductor Today Magazine / Juno PublishiPicture: Disco’s DAL7440 KABRA laser saw.

Ascent Solar Technologies Inc (ASTI) of Thornton, CO, USA says that its ultra-lightweight thin-film photovoltaics (PV) has been selected by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) to participate in the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-X) launched aboard the NG CRS-10 mission.

NASA is evaluating ASTI’s flexible, ultra-lightweight, monolithically integrated photovoltaics (PV) based on the copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) for various missions, including CubeSats and future missions to the moon and Mars. Actual in-flight experience is invaluable for evaluating new technologies, and NASA’s selection of ASTI’s PV is a critical path for entering the challenging space market, says the firm. MISSE-X represents the 10th of a series of experiments deployed onto the International Space Station (ISS) for an extended period of time to evaluate new materials, coating and other components in actual flight conditions, and are then retrieved and returned to earth for evaluation. Since 2001, the MISSE project has tested 4000 material samples and specimens – from lubricants and paints to fabrics, container seals and solar cell technologies – to demonstrate their durability in the space environment. MISSE-X was launched on 17 November from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, for docking at ISS on 19 November.

“Our flight on MISSE-X represents a significant milestone towards the acceptance of our flexible, lightweight, monolithically integrated CIGS in the challenging and very discriminating space market,” says Dr Joseph Armstrong, chief technology officer and founding team member of Ascent Solar. “Actual flight experience is crucial for these markets, and MISSE X allows us to demonstrate our monolithically integrated flexible CIGS for the first time,” he adds. “The experiment will be attached onto the space station for a year or more and will be returned to earth for further evaluation. NASA MSFC has been working with us for several years on the development of our product for this challenging market, and the micro-modules developed for MISSE-X are a compact version of our normal space products that were designed to fit within the MISSE-X form factor.”

The new 0.5-inch x 2-inch micro-module has six solar cells monolithically integrated in series but has all of the standard features of ASTI’s other larger modules. It is hence suitable for evaluating ASTI’s product in flight experiments that are typically space-limited. At this size, NASA can include several ASTI samples to be exposed to the same space conditions with different protective space coatings.

“Developing a PV module capable of integrating into a deployable array for CubeSats and future exploration missions puts us in a very unique position in the industry to answer the needs of these future markets,” reckons Ascent Solar’s president & CEO Victor Lee. “This is a significant milestone for the company in our pursuit of the specialty, high-value PV market.”

Tags: Ascent Solar CIGS

Visit: www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/2984.html

Visit: www.AscentSolar.com

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