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Thin-Film Solar Array Earth Orbit Mission Applicability AssessmentThis is a preliminary assessment of the applicability and spacecraft-level impact of using very lightweight thin-film solar arrays with relatively large deployed areas for representative Earth orbiting missions. The most and least attractive features of thin-film solar arrays are briefly discussed. A simple calculation is then presented illustrating that from a solar array alone mass perspective, larger arrays with less efficient but lighter thin-film solar cells can weigh less than smaller arrays with more efficient but heavier crystalline cells. However, a proper spacecraft-level systems assessment must take into account the additional mass associated with solar array deployed area: the propellant needed to desaturate the momentum accumulated from area-related disturbance torques and to perform aerodynamic drag makeup reboost. The results for such an assessment are presented for a representative low Earth orbit (LEO) mission, as a function of altitude and mission life, and a geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) mission. Discussion of the results includes a list of specific mission types most likely to benefit from using thin-film arrays. NASA Glenn's low-temperature approach to depositing thin-film cells on lightweight, flexible plastic substrates is also briefly discussed to provide a perspective on one approach to achieving this enabling technology. The paper concludes with a list of issues to be addressed prior to use of thin-film solar arrays in space and the observation that with their unique characteristics, very lightweight arrays using efficient, thin-film cells on flexible substrates may become the best array option for a subset of Earth orbiting missions.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Hoffman, David J.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Kerslake, Thomas W.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Hepp, Aloysius F.
(NASA Glenn Research Center Cleveland, OH United States)
Raffaelle, Ryne P.
(Rochester Inst. of Tech. NY United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
October 1, 2002
Publication Information
Publication: 17th Space Photovoltaic Research and Technology Conference
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion And Power
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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