Ascent’s Superlight Thin-Film Solar Selected For Jupiter Deployment Demonstration By The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

A Solar Sail converts sunlight as a propulsion by means of a large membrane while a Solar “Power” Sail gets electricity from thin film solar cells on the membrane in addition to acceleration by solar radiation. What’s more, if the ion-propulsion engines with high specific impulse are driven by such solar cells, it can become a “hybrid” engine that is combined with photon acceleration to realize fuel-effective and flexible missions. To evaluate the performance of the solar power sails, IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation Of the Sun) was launched on May 21, 2010 together with the Venus Climate Orbiter, AKATSUKI And IKAROS becomes the world’s first solar powered sail craft employing both photon propulsion and thin film solar power generation during its interplanetary cruise. Image Credit: JAXA

December 6, 2017 – Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art, lightweight and flexible thin-film photovoltaic (PV) solutions, announces that the company has fulfilled a third order from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) for custom PV products designed specifically for JAXA’s upcoming solar sail deployment demonstration project.

“We are very honored to be selected by JAXA once again to advance to the next stage of the upcoming Jupiter mission,” said Victor Lee, President and CEO of Ascent Solar. “Not only were we able to demonstrate a product of superior quality in the initial order, but we were able to take the challenge and deliver much thinner and lighter weight products in this order on the 25 micron substrate from our optimized production tooling to the same level of quality as our standard 50 micron substrate product. This is a strong testament to Ascent’s leadership in thin-film solar development, particularly for deep space application.”

In this most recent purchase, JAXA placed the entire order, comprising of small area test cells and large, 19.5cm x 30cm monolithically-integrated modules, all on a very thin, 25 micron (0.001 inch) plastic substrate which is half the thickness of Ascent’s production substrate for standard product. JAXA placed this order after achieving the desired experimental results from previous shipments and subsequent electrical, mechanical and environmental testing. The 19.5cm x 30cm module is a custom design to match the anticipated deployment mechanism and PV layout for the final Jovian spacecraft.

The deployment project is the next milestone of JAXA’s evaluations of Ascent’s PV in providing solar power for an upcoming mission to Jupiter and additional challenging missions under consideration. This decision followed earlier rounds of promising results, and the Company’s flexible, monolithically integrated copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) solar module continued to operate well when being tested and subjected to the environmental extremes anticipated in deep space with significantly reduced solar insolation.

“JAXA’s Jovian mission is a testament to the advancements being made in orbit, both in terms of its objectives, as well as the extremes in which the vehicle is required to operate,” stated Dr. Joseph Armstrong, Chief Technology Officer and founding member of Ascent Solar. “Our experience in fulfilling the latest order requires key process modifications that were necessary to provide those thinner modules in a production environment, and we are pleased to be able to successfully translate that into production. It is JAXA’s intent to use the 19.5cm x 30cm modules in a deployment demonstration based on the agency’s previous IKAROS (Interplanetary Kite-craft Accelerated by Radiation of the Sun) project that was demonstrated in orbit in 2010.”

Ascent Solar is headquartered in Thornton, Colorado.