Spectrolab, Inc., has once again set a new world record by manufacturing satellite solar cells able to convert 29 percent of the sun’s rays into spacecraft power. This surpasses its most recent record of 27 percent, announced in April, for a space solar cell, and comes only seven months after a record-breaking achievement in terrestrial solar cells with 32.3 percent efficiency.
"This latest achievement enables Spectrolab to provide the most efficient solar cell and solar panel technology in high volume, with low risk and at an affordable price," said Dr. David Lillington, acting President of Spectrolab. "Spectrolab is the only company to offer ‘one-stop shopping’ for solar cells and panels with this level of performance. As a result, technical and schedule risk are greatly reduced.
"We will be starting production of this second-generation, radiation-hard triple-junction cell in the third quarter of 2000. The average maximum power efficiency will be 27.4%, with an end-of-satellite-life efficiency of 24.1% after 15 years* in geosynchronous orbit," Dr. Lillington added. "This is the highest performance product available anywhere in the world." (*After 15 years, the standard radiation measure is 5×1014 1MeV Electrons/cm2.)
Spectrolab’s research and development activities are jointly funded through the U.S Air Force’s Dual Use Science and Technology development program. "This critical breakthrough for Spectrolab brings us closer to our ultimate goal of manufacturing solar cells with an average efficiency of 30 percent by 2001 and 35 percent by 2002," said Dr. Nasser Karam, Director of Advanced Programs and Optoelectronic Products. "Improved efficiency increases the satellite’s capacity, which results in increased revenue potential for its owner/operator."
Spectrolab has been producing solar cells for the space industry since 1958. Since 1995, its ability to dramatically increase efficiencies has resulted in increases from 19 percent to more than 25 percent. It has also increased its solar cell production capacity to deliver nearly 1 megawatt of power per year to global spacecraft manufacturers, and has reduced the cycle time required to transfer new designs into flight production by nearly 50 percent.
Spectrolab was the first company to introduce dual and triple-junction solar cells to the commercial marketplace, and has delivered more than 665 kilowatts of single, dual, and triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells to flight programs, with 160 kilowatts currently operating on 39 spacecraft. These highly efficient solar cells make it possible for Spectrolab to produce smaller, lighter arrays holding power levels constant, or more powerful arrays. Satellites with array power output in the range of 20 to 30 kilowatts, the power levels being demanded by Spectrolab customers like Hughes Space and Communications Company, will soon be possible with Spectrolab’s state-of-the-art technology.
"Congratulations are due to all of the Spectrolab employees for their contributions to Spectrolab’s technical superiority, high quality, and reliability," Dr. Lillington added.
Spectrolab is headquartered in Sylmar, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, and is the world’s largest manufacturer of space and terrestrial solar cells. It also is a leading supplier of NightsunÆ searchlights and solar simulators. Visit Spectrolab’s website at www.spectrolab.com. Hughes Electronics Corporation acquired Spectrolab in 1975. The earnings of Hughes Electronics, a unit of General Motors Corporation, are used to calculate the earnings per share attributable to the General Motors Class H common stock (NYSE:GMH).