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Real Rocket Science: The Highest Performing Space Solar Cell Technology

Stockhouse Editorial
2 Comments| March 9, 2022

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(Rocket Lab’s new IMM- ß high efficiency space solar cell. Image via Rocket Lab USA Inc.)

The next significant step in solar cell performance is coming to market ….

A global leader in launch services, space systems, and space solar power products, announced this week that its next-generation solar cell technology is transitioning into qualification.

Developed by Rocket Lab USA Inc. (NASDAQ: RKLB, Forum), the cell is the next product from SolAero’s patented Inverted MetaMorphic (IMM) solar cell technology, dubbed IMM-ß, that is expected to exhibit a conversion efficiency of around 33.3% in volume production. IMM-ß is the 4th generation IMM product created by SolAero Technologies Inc., a space solar power company acquired by Rocket Lab in January 2022.

Expected to be the highest efficiency space solar cell technology in high-volume production, the IMM-ß solar cell is 1.3% more efficient than the IMM-a that is currently in volume production. The IMM-ß is also a radiation-hard cell with a power remaining factor of 87% after exposure to 1-MeV electrons at a fluence of 1E15 e/cm2 or equivalent of about 15 years life in GEO. The cells are expected to be ready for commercial use later this year and are currently undergoing final space qualification testing.

In addition to its best-in-class efficiency, IMM is more than 40% lighter than typical space grade solar cells which helps to make satellites more cost effective.

In a news release, Space Systems Power Solutions’ Vice President & General Manager, Brad Clevenger said that, in partnership with his colleagues at the Air Force Research Laboratory, the team is not only commercializing the world’s highest efficiency and lightest weight space solar cell, but they’re also doing so at the most competitive cost of any IMM technology to date.

“IMM-ß‘s impact on solar array and launch mass will make it a compelling option for satellite integrators.”

SolAero’s Vice President of Business Development, Navid Fatemi added that IMM-ß’s superior performance is a mission enabler in many applications in the civil, military, and commercial space markets.

“It is also the next stepping stone to even higher performance future IMM solar cell technologies, solidifying SolAero’s segment leading position for many years to come.”


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