The U.S. space agency NASA has awarded a contract for $1.83 million to develop a unique solar array for powering future satellites and spacecraft.
KELLER, Texas – The technology team led by ENTECH Inc will develop a solar array that uses flexible, ultra-light lenses to focus sunlight onto high-efficiency solar cells, and achieve unprecedented performance. NASA has tested a prototype of the solar array with a record efficiency of 27.4 percent, which is double the efficiency of the recent solar arrays deployed on the International Space Station. In addition, the new array is lighter and provides five times more power per pound than the ISS arrays. The contract resulted from a competitive procurement for advanced technology developments for future NASA missions. More than 1,200 proposals were submitted to NASA in numerous technology areas, but only 111 proposals were selected for funding. Other members of the team include 3M, Spectrolab (a subsidiary of Boeing), and AEC-ABLE Engineering. NASA Glenn Research Center and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center will provide technical guidance and testing support during the three-year program. ENTECH is a private company that has developed a number of products related to the conversion of solar energy. Its products include solar electric generation equipment for ground-based power plants, solar power arrays for spacecraft, and collimating tubular skylights for buildings. In space technology, ENTECH made the 720 lenses used on the solar array on NASA’s Deep Space One spacecraft, which was launched in 1998 and now is 200 million miles from earth on its way to a comet encounter later this year.