AES Semigas


21 October 2021

Ascent Solar’s custom-designed CIGS PV retains 92% of original power during space flight experiment

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 – says that its PV solution specially designed for a flight experiment conducted by NASA’s Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE-X) has exceeded performance and power retention expectations; validating Ascent’s ability to create solar power solutions custom-designed for the extreme conditions unique to the space industry. The results of the experiment were announced by NASA at its 26th Space Photovoltaic Research and Technology (SPRAT) conference held virtually on 20 October from Cleveland, OH.

At the conference, Dr John Carr, deputy center chief technologist for NASA MSFC (Marshall Space Flight Center), presented data that validated the performance of Ascent Solar’s flexible CIGS PV in ground-based space environmental testing with appropriate space protective coatings. The NASA MSFC data results correlated with the performance of the International Space Station (ISS) in relation to the MISSE-X flight experiment. This flight experiment resulted in Ascent’s PV retaining 92% of its beginning of life (BOL) power, exceeding the NASA MSFC ground data predictions for about one year in orbit. This data was summarized as part of the ongoing investigations, conducted by the NASA MSFC, into the viability of lower-cost PV technologies and solutions, and the significant advantages they may have over existing ‘space power’ technologies.

Ascent’s flexible, ultra-lightweight, monolithically integrated PVs are based on CIGS chemistry and will benefit various future missions, ranging from CubeSats, solar sails and, potentially, missions to the moon and Mars, says the firm. As with other space programs, NASA MSFC began investigating the firm’s flexible monolithically integrated CIGS several years ago for a wide range of applications. This includes its use in both the upcoming LISA-T demonstration, which is part of NASA’s Pathfinder Technology Demonstrator 4 CubeSat (slated for launch in 2022), and the upcoming Solar Cruiser.

“We are extremely pleased with both the reported ground test results, as well as how the predictions from these results were exceeded by the actual MISSE-X flight experimental results,” says Dr Joseph Armstrong, founding team member, chief technology officer & chief operating officer of Ascent Solar. “The inherent radiation resilience of our lightweight, flexible PV technology, coupled with the robustness of the monolithic integration process, has shown itself as a unique, robust solution for space. In fact, the only true but positive surprise from the MISSE-X was that the bare control sample of our CIGS module actually retained nearly 76.1% of its BOL power, despite having no protective cover and visible damage from ultraviolet light and atomic oxygen. Data presented at the conference indicate that we are ready for more challenging assignments, such as LISA-T and Solar Cruiser, and also reinforce the choice from other customers who are developing future applications using our PV material,” he adds.

“I want to congratulate and commend our team, along with those at NASA and our industry partner NeXolve, who have worked diligently on this project for many years,” says Ascent’s president & CEO Victor Lee. “These test results certainly set the stage for the potential of Ascent’s future involvement with LISA-T and Solar Cruiser, as well as some internal projects, that are designed for Ascent to advance to TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 7 and eventually Level 8 (Space Qualified) in the near future,” he adds. “The space community is extremely prudent and takes no chances for failures, hence these early flight opportunities that would establish higher TRL will encourage the industry to adopt our flexible, robust, very high specific-power PV product in the near future,” he believes.

See related items:

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

Tags: Ascent Solar CIGS