Since the entry of the private companies on the space market, satellites and their manufacturing processes have been subject to major changes. The space applications provide a vast field of opportunities for the development of IoT, communications, terrestrial, air and maritime navigation and positioning systems, as well as remote medicine. Some constellations foresee tens of thousands of satellites. From a technical point of view, electric propulsion and the possibility of swarm flight also redefine the need for electric power. Solar panels must therefore be able to meet these new technological challenges.
Taking profit from its experience in the development of custom solar panels for terrestrial specific applications, and its extensive skills in photovoltaic cells, the CEA at INES has been amplifying its space research activities since 2016. It is developing integrated solutions to reduce the specific mass (Kg/W) and dimensions of folded modules, while maintaining an acceptable cost for the industry. These solutions also rely on models and production methods from terrestrial applications to meet the growing demand for high productivity. The CEA laboratories at INES are also extending their characterization activity to evaluate the performance of solar panels and offer innovative qualification solutions that can be easily integrated into production lines.
To meet the need for these new photovoltaic solutions, for which environmental constraints are severe, CEA has recently acquired thermal chambers, with a temperature range of -180°C, +150°C under atmosphere, and -120°C, +120°C under vacuum. This equipment complements the manufacturing equipment available at the Modules platform at CEA at INES.