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26 October 2006


Spectrolab produces two millionth multi-junction solar cell

Spectrolab Inc of Sylmar, CA, USA, which became a subsidiary of Boeing in 2000, has produced its two millionth multi-junction GaAs solar cell as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Spectrolab pioneered this type of cell in 1983, putting it into production several years later. The company says that the development gave satellite operators the option of doubling satellite power and increasing potential revenue or controlling costs by reducing spacecraft size without sacrificing capability.

"I'd like to thank the US Air Force and NASA for their visionary support of Spectrolab and early adoption of the multi-junction solar cell technology," said Spectrolab's president David Lillington.

"Spectrolab's on-orbit products are creating more than 575kW of total power for agencies like NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and high-performance commercial spacecraft for customers such as DIRECTV and Thuraya," adds Howard Chambers, vice president and general manager of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. Spectrolab also supplies solar cell for US government and national security programs. Its cells power 60% of all satellites orbiting the Earth as well as the
International Space Station, it says.

Also, six of the seven programs currently operating on or in orbit around Mars have Spectrolab-built solar cells and panels. The Mars Global Surveyor has exceeded its mission life-span by about six years and continues to function nominally. The Spectrolab-built solar cells and panels on the
rovers Spirit and Opportunity have both operated well beyond their 90-day planned mission life, and have conducted research operations for more than 33 months on Mars. In total, Spectrolab's products have powered more than 525 satellites and interplanetary missions.

Spectrolab claims its technical advances have driven space solar cell efficiencies to more than 28%. "In 2007, we'll offer our next-generation triple-junction solar cell, which will be 30% efficient," says Lillington. "Long-term, we plan to achieve 40% efficiency space solar cells through further advancements in our multi-junction technology." Multi-junction solar cells for use in terrestrial solar concentrators currently hold record-breaking efficiencies of 39%.

Spectrolab says it is working with several domestic and international solar concentrator manufacturers on clean, renewable solar energy solutions. Currently, its solar cells are delivering power to a 1kW solar concentrator test system in the Arizona desert, which has functioned optimally for more than two years. Spectrolab's terrestrial concentrator cells are also generating power in a 33kW full-scale concentrator system in the Australian desert.