NASA to Send Israeli Solar-Powered Generator to International Space Station in 2020

The new generator is a significant step forward for private commercial space missions

November 18, 2019


Israel’s leading research university, Ben-Gurion University (BGU), has designed a miniaturized solar-power prototype that will help private commercial space missions.

Designed by Professor Jeffrey Gordon and his U.S. colleagues, the BGU’s prototype consists of a compact, low-mass, molded-glass solar concentrator bonded to monolithic integration of transfer-printed micro-scale solar cells.

According to the press release, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is set to send a prototype to the International Space Station with its first launch of 2020.

“The first-generation prototype is less than 1.7 mm thick with solar cells that are only 0.65 mm on a side; but a second generation that can increase specific power even further is now being designed by the same team, predicated on more efficient solar cells (now in fabrication at U.S. Naval Research Lab) that are only 0.17 mm on a side. Because solar concentrator dimensions scale with cell size, the entire second-generation assembly will be less than 1.0 mm thick,” the release stated.

“For military and government space initiatives, cost basically is no object. But for private missions, cost is paramount – intensified by the fact that private space corporations have markedly reduced launch costs, so the solar power systems now represent a larger fraction than ever of the total system cost,” states the release.

Professor Gordon’s research is funded by a grant from the Israel Ministry of Science, Technology & Space. The study was conducted with colleagues from the Pennsylvania State University, University of Illinois, George Washington University, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, H-NU Systems, and Northwestern University. ​

In November 2018, Mercom reported that Israel had proposed to help in developing a 50 MW solar photovoltaic project and contribute towards the improvement of the agricultural sector in Angola in Central Africa.  It was also reported back then that Israel had invested $300 million in the agricultural sector in Angola since 2014.

Meanwhile, a team of research scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) had a breakthrough in the efficiency of solar cells. The ANU team achieved a 21.6% solar cell efficiency, which is the highest value attained for perovskite cells that are above specific dimensions.

Image credit: Ben-Gurion University