Twiggs Space Lab, LLC (TSL), NearSpace Launch, Inc. (NSL) and their launch logistics partner, NanoRacks LLC (NanoRacks) employed solar cells from Alta Devices on a successful CubeSat mission.
CubeSats (satellites weighing less than 15kg) were first developed to allow university students to participate in space research. Now, the CubeSat standard has helped to spark a small satellite revolution. The small CubeSat satellites typically operate in low-earth orbits and often feature standardized or off-the-shelf components, granting more affordable and straightforward access to space.
CubeSat Solar Cells
Conventional solar cells for satellites are generally, fragile, and rigid and tend to be difficult to encapsulate and robustly attach to spacecraft. However, Alta Devices says its solar cells have overcome these issues. About 24 watts of Alta solar cells powered the Asgardia-1 satellite, which used NSL’s FastBus platform. TSL, NSL, and NanoRacks chose Alta Devices gallium arsenide solar technology due to its high efficiency and its modular and lightweight design.
Bob Twiggs, the founder of TSL, stated, “Alta Devices technology is easy to integrate, and its modular form factor is well-suited to the standardized dimensions of CubeSats.”
The 2U-size FastBus was launched in November 2017 on an Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman) cargo resupply mission and inserted into a 475 km low earth orbit in December 2017 using the NanoRacks External Cygnus Deployer. The satellite transported a payload that included a solid-state memory experiment and particle detectors to determine the effects of on-orbit radiation.
NanoRacks CEO, Jeffrey Manber, commented about Alta’s glass-free solar cells saying, “The Alta solar cells came through with flying colors on the Asgardia-1 satellites.”
Alta Devices will be exhibiting at the 32nd Annual Small Satellite Conference in Logan, UT this year at Booth 145.