CIGS in space: Ascent Solar chosen for space-based PV project

CIGS technology is set to ascend to new heights following the news this week that thin film specialists Ascent Solar has once again been asked to supply its PV modules for a forthcoming program designed to explore the construction possibilities of solar arrays located in outer space.

Aerospace engineering firm Vanguard Space Technologies has selected Ascent Solar to provide modules for two Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programs that will employ the company’s lightweight, flexible PV modules to create a large solar array prototype that might one day be used in space.

Furthermore, Ascent Solar’s CIGS technology will also be used for novel integration into the wings of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that will be used for space flight.

In July, Vanguard Space Technologies first identified Ascent Solar’s PV modules as the ideal lightweight solution for its NASA-backed research program.

"We are honored to have been chosen again by Vanguard Space Technologies for these projects," said Ascent Solar CTO Joseph Armstrong. "Our existing flexible, monolithically integrated CIGS product represents an excellent starting point for a wide range of applications, including Vanguard’s space and UAV-based products.

Armstrong added that Ascent Solar’s CIGS products are ideal for futuristic solar cells that must deliver flexible, high power-to-weight ratio performance. "Our growing relationship with Vanguard represents an exciting partnership for developing new products in these challenging markets," he said.

Ascent Solar will provide optimized variants of their production CIGS PV, leveraging their experience with space-based production to supply products specially designed to deal with the demands of space – a development that excites Vanguard’s manager of solar power systems, Matt Wrosch.

"Vanguard is pleased to have these opportunities to incorporate Ascent’s CIGS cells into our solar array modules," he said. "The advent of our extreme environment thin film coatings, automated manufacturing-friendly array design, and Ascent’s proven cell technology provides an excellent fit for our ongoing investigations into next generation durable, affordable, large-area space solar arrays and also extended-range UAV solar wing-skins."

Vanguard Space Technologies has been examing a range of solar techniques for use in outer space conditions, and in March passed a key test milestone with its Thin Integrated Solar (THINS) PV technology, which was proven able to demonstrate high-voltage performance in a simulated space plasma environment.

Vanguard has worked closely with NASA to explore the development of installing high power solar arrays into orbit, as well as solar-propelles space exploration missions.