Tens of thousands of LEO SmallSats expected to deploy in constellations over next decade

Alta Devices has announced it is scaling up solar production to meet growing demand for small satellites (SmallSats), the company said.

Tens of thousands of low-earth orbiting (LEO) SmallSats are expected to be launched over the next decade. They will all rely on the sun for power. Alta Devices solar material has the potential to meet the specific needs of this SmallSat boom.

Solar is the single most expensive hardware component in a small satellite. Alta Devices has developed proprietary equipment to mass produce its thin film gallium arsenide. This equipment is being scaled up to produce at much higher volumes and lower cost than other space solar manufacturers. Alta´s ability to produce at this scale is unique and can substantially lower the cost of each SmallSat.

Furthermore, Alta Devices flexible solar cells provide a new level of mechanical and design flexibility for the satellite industry. Alta´s technology can be mounted to thin, flexible, low-mass deployable structures allowing creative design approaches to maximizing the solar array. These include coiled carbon fiber booms, flat-packed, polymer-based accordioned arrays, or even inflatable structures. This allows more compact design of the high-power solar arrays required to power high-speed LEO communication satellites.

Finally, traditional photovoltaic assemblies (PVAs) are composed of hundreds or thousands of small solar cells, each protected with a tile of glass, connected to each other through individual metallic welds, which are then carefully grouted to prevent electrical arcing and attack from the space environment. In contrast, Alta´s space product will consist of flexible, glass-free units that are 10 to 100 times larger, thus eliminating breakage, lowering cost and having no exposed electrical interconnects. Alta´s space product will enable bonding to customer substrates using a large-area, high-volume vacuum bonding process, as opposed to mounting individual cells or CICs (Coverglass Interconnected Cells).

Overall, Alta´s goal is to provide LEO satellite manufacturers with a better balance of solar conversion efficiency, reduced array weight, cell durability, speed of deployment, and cost compared with conventional space solar cells.

Alta Devices is Empowering Autonomy™ by delivering the world´s most efficient, thin and flexible mobile power technology. By converting light of any kind into electricity, Alta Devices AnyLight™ power technology extends the energy source of a system, and in many cases, completely cuts the traditional power cord. The solution can be completely integrated into the final system, and is ideal for use in small satellites, unmanned systems, consumer electronics, sensors, automotive, remote exploration, or anywhere size, weight, and mobility matter. Alta Devices holds world records for energy conversion efficiency and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA. For more information, visit www.altadevices.com. Alta Devices is a Hanergy company.