Contracts to Provide Solar for Moon/Mars Mission

If price was no object, here are some solar panels you want to get a hold of for your project. Texas-based Entech has developed a Stretched Lens Array technology that is showing efficiencies upwards of 27 percent.

The company recently secured three NASA contract’s from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to provide the space agency with their lightweight, high-performance solar technology. The contracts are funded by NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, and all are related to the development of advanced solar power arrays for Moon/Mars exploration. Total value of these three contracts to Entech, if all options are exercised by NASA, is approximately $17.5 million. All three contracts are related to Entech’s Stretched Lens Array, a patented solar array technology the company states offers substantial advances over current technology in many critical performance parameters, including: power-to-mass ratio, power-to-area ratio, high-power capacity, high-voltage capability, radiation-hardness, and economy. The first contract, with a value of $600,000 over 18 months, is a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research contract to develop a special version of the Stretched Lens Array. This special version can not only collect sunlight and produce electricity, but can also collect infrared laser light to produce electricity. This latter capability is important for NASA exploration missions to locations where sunlight is rarely or never available. For example, the north and south poles of the Moon are known to contain hydrogen, making them points of high interest for exploration missions. But the craters on these poles are permanently dark, precluding the use of solar power there. However, Entech’s special array could be used in these craters to receive laser light beamed from an orbiting spacecraft, thereby providing a source of electricity for the lunar polar mission. Entech has already demonstrated over 45 percent net conversion efficiency from laser light to electrical power with its technology, and expects to push this value over 50 percent under the new contract. The University of Alabama in Huntsville and Entech Photovoltaics of Albuquerque are supporting Entech in this contract. The second contract, with a value of $500,000 over 12 months, is a Phase I contract, with an option for an additional $2,100,000 Phase II contract, in support of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s Modular, Reconfigurable High-Energy Solar Clipper program. Entech is supporting NASA Marshall in their development of a new type of spacecraft using high-power solar arrays to drive electric propulsion thrusters to ferry cargo from low earth orbit to lunar orbit. Under this contract, Entech will develop advanced lens materials and high-voltage solar cell circuits for the Stretched Lens Array to meet the requirements of the Solar Clipper. Other participating team members include the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville. This NASA Marshall Solar Clipper program resulted from a highly competitive procurement between all NASA centers, starting with approximately 1,300 initial proposals and ending with 50 Phase I contracts. The third contract, with a value of $1.8 Million over 12 months, is a Phase I contract, with an option for another $12.5 Million Phase II contract, to develop a very-high-power version of Entech’s Stretched Lens Array, using a unique large-area platform called SquareRigger. SquareRigger has been under development by one of Entech’s team members for this program, ABLE Engineering, a part of ATK Space. Other team members include Entech Photovoltaics, Ion Beam Optics, Auburn University, and Texas A&M University. In addition, under separate NASA funding, NASA Glenn Research Center and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center will provide technical support to the program valued at nearly $400,000 in Phase I and another $1.8 Million in the optional Phase II.
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