Space grade solar cells are crucial for many of today’s space mission. Without the ability to generate new power in-orbit, a typical satellite will have a much shorter operating life and reduced performance.
In this article we introduce and discuss space solar cells before providing an overview of products available on the global market. If you’re familiar with the technology and just want to see the available products, click on the links below to navigate to the right section.
- What are space grade solar cells?
- How are terrestrial and space grade solar cells different?
- Space grade solar cell suppliers and manufacturers active in the industry
- Space grade solar cells and products available on the global market
- Share your solar cell requirements here
- Add or update your company and products to this page
- Resources and further reading
What are space grade solar cells?
Space grade solar cells are essentially the onboard power plants of a satellite or spacecraft – there are no plug sockets or power cables in space, so the only source of power while in orbit is the Sun.
A typical satellite, for example, will have a battery unit and electrical power system (EPS) to manage and deploy energy to the rest of the system. But once the battery is out of charge, the mission is over, unless of course it can be topped up with solar power.
Solar cells are the basic units of photovoltaic power generation – turning the Sun’s rays into electrical energy. Multiple cells are usually arranged in solar panels, which themselves can be combined into arrays or used individually.
Solar panels may be affixed to a spacecraft or satellite’s outer surfaces in certain useful positions, or added in deployable arrays that are stowed during launch and certain operations, then unfurled when power collection is required.
The harsh environment of space poses significant challenges to any technology. In the next section we take a look at how solar cells are prepared and protected for space use.
How are terrestrial and space grade solar cells different?
Obviously, solar cells on Earth and in orbit work in the same way – and terrestrial cells will also typically be arranged into arrays and panels. The most common materials and construction are silicon (Si) cells covered in thin glass, and multi-junction cells made from gallium arsenide (GaAs) layers.
Where cells used in the two environments (Earth and space) differ is mainly in the durability and reliability of space-based systems and the versatility that they are often required to have.
Space grade solar cells, once in orbit, cannot (currently) be maintained or replaced. They are also subject to extreme temperature variations, high levels of radiation, and physical stresses during launch and deployment. This requires robust cells that can operate effectively for long missions.
Satellites are also moving quickly around the Earth, in and out of the eclipse, and may need to rotate to perform various mission operations, so the cells need to generate power at different angles to the Sun with minimal disruption.
Some of these issues are solved with effective solar panel and array construction, as well as deployable system setups, but the cell itself must also function efficiently in the harsh environment of space.
Space grade solar cell suppliers and manufacturers active in the industry
Space grade solar cells and products available on the global market
In this section you can find details of individual space grade solar cells and products from across the global market. You can click on any of the links below to find out more about the equipment and the manufacturers on each product page.
From the product pages you can submit free requests for further information, quotes, documents, or whatever else you might need for your procurement or trade study processes.
Alternatively, to quickly send out a free and no-obligation request for quote or proposal to all of these companies, click here and share your requirements with us.
The EXA Space Solar Cell Assembly is designed for space and satellite applications. It is a triple-junction solar cell assembly consisting of 0.4 mm thickness. The product has a bypass diode and cell interconnects installed. It also has more than 30% efficiency and cover glass installed. The solar cell substrate is composed of Germanium (Ge).
Please note that O.C.E. Technology provides solar cells made by Chinese manufacturers.
The AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH Triple Junction Solar Cell 3G30C-Advanced (80µm) is a GaInP/GaAs/Ge cell on Ge substrate. The cells are in a grid system design with 2 contact pads and each covers and area of 30.18 cm^2.
The AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH Triple Junction Solar Cell 3G30C-Advanced (7 x 4 cm) is an InGaP/GaAs/Ge cell on a Ge substrate. The cell has an efficiency class of 30% and has a thickness of 150 ± 20 µm.
The AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH Triple Junction Solar Cell 3G30C-Advanced (8 x 4 cm) is a GaInP/GaAs/Ge cell on a Ge substrate. The average weight of a product is ≤ 86 mg/cm^2 and the cells have an efficiency rating of 30%.
The AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH Triple Junction Solar Cell 3G30C-Advanced with Integrated Protection Diode (8 x 4 cm) is an InGaP/GaAs/Ge cell on a Ge substrate. The cell has an updated grid design (with 2 contact pads) and is equipped with an integrated bypass diode, which protects the adjacent cell in the string - offering shadow protection.
The AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH Triple Junction Solar Cell 3G30C-Advanced (8 x 8 cm) is an InGaP/GaAs/Ge cell on a Ge substrate. The cells cover an area of 60.36 cm^2 and have an average weight of ≤ 86 mg/cm^2.
The AZUR SPACE Solar Power GmbH Triple Junction Solar Cell 3G30C-Advanced (12 x 6 cm) is an InGaP/GaAs/Ge cell on a Ge substrate. They have a cell area of 68.76 cm^2 and a thickness, without contacts, of 230 ± 20 µm (with other thicknesses available).
The Hemu Group 30% Efficiency Triple Junction Gallium Arsenide Solar Cell (Laminate 4 x 3 cm) features 3 N/P sub-cells connected in series.
The Hemu Group 30% Efficiency Triple Junction Gallium Arsenide Solar Cell (Laminate 4 x 6 cm) features 3 N/P sub-cells connected in series.
The Hemu Group 30% Efficiency Triple Junction Gallium Arsenide Solar Cell (Laminate 4 x 8 cm) features 3 N/P sub-cells connected in series.
The mPower Technology DragonSCALES™ - High-Efficiency Back Contact Silicon Cell - is a customizable, space-qualified solution for space solar power.
The Shanghai Institute of Space Power-Sources (SISP) 30% Triple Junction GaAs Solar Cell Assembly (SC-3GA-3) features an external Si bypass diode.
The Shanghai Institute of Space Power-Sources (SISP) Triple Junction GaAs Solar Cell Assembly (SC-3GA-4) features an external Si bypass diode.
The Shanghai Institute of Space Power-Sources (SISP) Mini-size High Efficiency Solar Cell is a customizable cell for microsatellites and space assets.
The Sharp Energy Solutions Corporation triple-junction (InGaP/GaAs/Ge) solar cell/CIC is a space-approved, rigid solar cell with >29.0% efficiency.
The Sharp Energy Solutions Corporation triple-junction (InGaP/GaAs/InGaAs) solar cell sheet (film type) is a flexible solar cell for standard fluence.
The Sharp Energy Solutions Corporation triple-junction (InGaP/GaAs/InGaAs) solar cell sheet (glass type) is a lightweight cell, with a by-pass diode.
The Solestial Flexible Silicon Solar Cell can self-cure radiation damage at normal operating temperatures and features greater than 20% efficiency.
The Spacelis Ultra-lightweight Plastic Solar Cell is designed to offer flexible power generation for a variety of space applications and hardware.
The Spectrolab 29.5% NeXt Triple Junction (XTJ) solar cell is a space grade solar cell available in a range of standard and custom sizes.
The Spectrolab UTJ Space Solar Cell is a space-qualified, ultra triple junction cell available in a variety of sizes.
The Spectrolab XTE-SF (Standard Fluence) Triple Junction Solar Cell is a space-qualified cell, meeting the AIAA-S111-2014 standard, available in a range of sizes.
The Spectrolab XTJ Prime Triple Junction Solar Cell is a space-qualified cell with a heritage upright lattice-matched XTJ structure.
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Resources and further reading
- Space-Based Solar vs. Conventional Solar – How Are They Different?
- Solar Array Drive Assemblies (SADAs) on the global market
- Solar Energy in Space Applications: Review and Technology Perspectives
- High-power, deployable solar arrays for CubeSats – with DCUBED
- ESA – Inside a solar cell
- Smallsat and CubeSat solar panels on the global market