olestial, Inc., an Arizona-based company at the forefront of solar power for space, has been awarded a nearly $1 million contract from NASA. This funding, part of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Ignite program, is set to develop a state-of-the-art solar array that could redefine energy use in space missions.
Since the dawn of space exploration, solar power has been a key player. The historic Vanguard 1, launched in 1958, was the first satellite powered by solar, using a modest six-cell setup to generate about 1 watt. Fast forward to today, and the International Space Station relies entirely on solar panels for power, a testament to the giant strides in solar tech.
With a hefty $849,954 Phase II contract from NASA, following an initial $149,987 awarded in January 2023, Solestial is on track to develop a 50-kilowatt class solar array using its innovative silicon solar blanket technology.
Collaborating with Opterus Research & Development, the manufacturer plans to integrate its ultrathin, flexible silicon solar blankets with Opterus' novel deployment system. This hybrid tech promises to tackle the limitations of current space solar setups, especially in terms of bulkiness and cost. The ultimate goal is to achieve a 50-kW scale and 200 W/kg array-level specific power, all while cutting back on expenses and upscaling production.
Stan Herasimenka, Solestial's Co-Founder and CEO, expressed his enthusiasm about the project. "The private space stations and lunar bases of tomorrow will require a tremendous amount of power, and currently, there are no affordable and scalable space nanotech solar technologies that can accommodate this demand. Our affordable and low-mass solar blankets will help to overcome size, cost, and manufacturing limitations to power large-scale spacecraft and surface infrastructure," he says.
Erik Pranckh, Director of Business Development at Opterus, shares the excitement. "Our high-performance deployment systems pair perfectly with low-mass solar blankets from Solestial. Together, we can develop the powerful, affordable, next-generation solar arrays needed to power development in space."
This Ignite award is the ninth such contract for Solestial, bringing their tally to nearly $4 million in funds from big names like NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Air Force.