17 May 2021
Ascent Solar delivers contract to supply new HyperLight PV modules for high-altitude airships
Ascent Solar Technologies Inc of Thornton, CO, USA – which makes lightweight, flexible copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules that can be integrated into consumer products, off-grid applications and aerospace applications – has completed the delivery of a major order for its HperLight thin-film modules for high-altitude airship applications.
The HyperLight family of modules further reduces packaging and PV module mass, achieving what is claimed to be best-in-class power-to-weight ratio (specific power) of over 350W/kg for a fully laminated product on an airship, while streamlining customer operations to integrate the modules to their application.
The shipment represents the third and the largest order from the customer since March 2018. The customer is the developer of an unmanned, helium-filled airship operating in the stratosphere at an altitude greater than 60,000ft above sea level. The robust, versatile and solar-powered high-altitude platform aims to provide several services, including delivering high-speed Internet directly-to-device, enabling high-resolution real-time Earth imagery, and facilitating other humanitarian endeavors.
Ascent says that its PV modules will benefit various future missions, ranging from CubeSats, solar sails, and potentially missions to the moon and Mars. To obtain the necessary data to determine how flexible CIGS performs in the space environment, Ascent’s PV modules have been undergoing extensive evaluation for years, including protracted and demanding ground simulation test and, as part of the 10th Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-X) flight experiment aboard the International Space Station that was launched on 17 November 2018 for a duration of over one year. The upcoming LISA-T demonstration, part of NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 4 CubeSat slated for launch in 2022, will also include Ascent’s flexible CIGS as part of its further photovoltaic experiment.
“We have noted previously that Ascent’s thin-film CIGS PV technology produces modules with the highest power-to-weight ratio, and this characteristic is incredibly important for aerospace, near-space and space applications,” says Dr Joseph Armstrong, founding team member, chief technology & chief operating officer of Ascent. “We were able to provide our customer with a unique modular product that is designed to reduce part count significantly over our competition, while providing the ability and flexibility to integrate the modules into different form factors for different applications as their product evolves. Based upon results from the first two orders supplied to them, we worked with the customer to significantly reduce the mass of the PV module while including in-laminate circuit protection to enable them to streamline their integration process as well… we were able to complete this order that dramatically improved upon performance from earlier designs while overcoming significant challenges of the past 15 months.”
“This contract is by far the single largest PV sales contract in the corporate history of Ascent Solar, which follows the success of multiple large shipments of such customized high-voltage superlight thin-film for high-altitude applications,” says CEO & president Victor Lee. “The contract is not only significant in value but also underscores the power of Ascent’s proprietary technology to address these rapidly emerging and growing premium PV markets,” he adds. “We hope that this contract is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as the project, if successfully launched, is expected to be rolled out on a much larger scale in the future.”