Beersheba Team Creates Mini Solar Generator for Space Missions; Launch to International Space Station Soon 

He dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: And this time, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Genesis 37:9 (The Israel Bible™)

A miniature prototype of a solar generator developed at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Beersheba will be launched early in 2020 by NASA’s International Space Station. The innovative solar power device, which is an important step toward private commercial space flights. was created by Prof. (Emeritus) Jeffrey Gordon and colleagues at the department of solar energy and environmental physics at BGU’s Blaustein Desert Research Institutes and their partners from the US.  

The development and experiments were published in the latest edition of the journal Optics Express, and the research was funded by a grant from the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology. 

The tiny and innovative system developed by Gordon and his team to utilize solar energy in space will be launched into a series of tests under precise conditions in a few months. 

Space missions are not difficult when high-budget military or government agencies are behind them, but for commercial and private entities, the cost involved is of paramount importance. But as private space corporations have to cut launch costs significantly, solar energy systems now account for a large share of the system’s costs.

As the private space market has grown at a tremendous rate, becoming an entire industry that totals billions of dollars a year and involves dozens of corporations, the need to invent and implement innovative and viable solar solutions is growing. Building small solar devices that can improve the production of electricity (watts per kilogram) at a lucrative price can meet this need

The BGU prototype includes a compact, low-mass sunlight center made of cast glass and directly coupled to printed solar cells, each consisting of several different materials that together effectively use most of the solar spectrum. The prototype is so thin that its overall thickness is only 1.7 mm, with the solar cell thickness attached to its sides 0.65 mm. A significant advantage of the device is its optical tolerance to errors in directing the cells to the sun, structural vibrations and thermal distortion while providing a specific electrical power designed for the task with unprecedented efficiency. 

NASA has decided to attach the prototype for its first launch in 2020 to the International Space Station so the impact of cosmic radiation and huge temperature differentials on the extraterrestrial transition can be assessed. The team is currently working on developing a second-generation system that can increase its specific power supply will be based on more-efficient solar cells. These cells were developed in the US Navy Lab and are only 0.17 mm thick (by comparison, paper is 0.10 mm thick). Because the sunlight center dimensions depend on cell size, the second-generation assembly will be less than 1.0 mm thick. 

After verifying the integrity of the material and its stability in space working conditions, the device is expected to be used not only in private missions but also in government space agencies’ deep-space missions that require a great amount of electrical power for electric propulsion such as going to Jupiter and Saturn.