technology

SOLAR CONCENTRATOR ARRAYS

The innovative array uses 720 lenses to focus sunlight onto 3600 solar cells, each converting the light into electricity to power the ion propulsion system and the rest of the spacecraft. The array produces about 2500 watts when at the same distance from the Sun as Earth. That may not sound like a lot (itís only enough to run 3 microwave ovens), but it's much more than most spacecraft exploring the solar system.

DS1 is the first spacecraft to rely exclusively on refractive concentrator arrays; it also is among the first to use only multibandgap cells.

The array is one of three new technologies that had to work correctly immediately after launch in order for the mission to proceed; stored battery energy was sufficient only for a few hours. A substantial part of the validation of the array was the mechanical deployment and subsequent pointing. The deployment was so accurate that, following dedicated tests, no pointing adjustments were deemed necessary, and the array provided stable operation throughout the mission.




photograph of one of the two solar array wings deployed during ground testing

schematic drawing showing light being focused by a number of concentrator lines onto solar cell modules
Artist's rendering of Solar Concentrator Array by Don Foley (copyright)


 


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