Key takeaways


erida Aerospace, an aerospace company based in the US, is pioneering the development of perovskite solar cells for satellites orbiting at low Earth levels. They argue that these new cells rise to outperform the existing technology used within the space industry, offering a significant boost in both efficiency and affordability for satellites that heavily rely on solar power. Let's explore the unique advantages this new tech brings to space applications.

What is the New Technology About?

Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which are key to our global internet and phone services as well as Earth observation systems, traditionally get their power from the sun. Solar panels capture sunlight during their orbit around the Earth, which lets them keep running without the heavy reliance on batteries. The introduction of perovskite solar cells by Merida Aerospace could improve this system by offering a more efficient and lightweight alternative.

Andrea Marquez, a research engineer at Merida Aerospace, is at the helm of the project. Marquez explains the unique advantages of these cells, stating, "Perovskite solar cells have demonstrated remarkable resilience to high-energy radiation in space conditions, thanks to a self-healing effect. Furthermore, the arrangement of perovskite crystals is influenced by space temperatures, enhancing their light absorption capabilities."

The potential of perovskite solar cells has also been validated by recent experiments conducted by NASA. Dr. Lyndsey McMillon-Brown, who leads research efforts at NASA, shared the encouraging results of a spaceflight demo that tested the endurance of perovskites aboard the International Space Station. Remarkably, after a ten-month trial, the perovskite film not only withstood the challenge but also showed remarkable restorative features. This reinforces the idea that perovskite could become a key player in future space missions.

Global corporate funding for solar has surged, reflecting growing confidence in renewable energy as a viable, profitable sector. This uptrend indicates a strong shift towards sustainability.

Solar Energy's Role in Space Journeys

Photovoltaics (PV) is the unsung hero of space voyages, powering everything from satellites to space probes with its dependable and efficient solar energy. Since 1958, when the Vanguard 1 satellite showed the world that solar power could work in space, solar panels have become a go-to power source for space exploration. Even though the satellite had batteries, the solar cells were crucial for running its radio transmitter, showing that solar could support missions over the long haul. This laid the groundwork for solar power to become the go-to energy source for satellites during the 1960s.

Vanguard 1, the world’s first solar-powered satellite Image Credit: NASA
Vanguard 1, the world’s first solar-powered satellite
Image Credit: NASA

So what exactly makes solar power stand out for space exploration? Here are the main factors:

  • Abundance: In the vastness of space, sunlight is everywhere and doesn't get blocked by clouds or the atmosphere, especially when spacecraft are not in the shadow of a planet or moon.
  • Reliability: For missions that last a long time, solar energy is a dependable and endless power source. It reduces the dependence on finite resources like chemical batteries or nuclear power, which might not last as long or could be risky.
  • Low Weight: In space, every little bit of weight savings is crucial, and solar panels offer a great option here. They're light yet can generate a lot of energy, making them perfect for space travel.

Space exploration leverages solar power in various ways. Let's look at its crucial applications:

  • Satellites: Satellites, whether they're in a stationary spot far from Earth or cruising closer in low Earth orbit, use solar panels for energy. These panels often deploy after launch and can track the Sun to maximize energy absorption.
  • Space Probes and Rovers: On missions to distant planets, like the rovers on Mars, solar panels are vital. These panels are designed to withstand extreme conditions, including temperature fluctuations and dust.
  • International Space Station (ISS): The ISS uses large solar arrays that provide power for everything from daily operations to supporting the life and work of astronauts on board. These arrays are among the largest structures on the station and are critical for its work.

Types of Solar Tech Used in Space

Not every solar technology is equally effective in the outer space environment. Let’s take look at the different solar technologies that have contributed to space exploration.

Silicon-Based Cells: The Early Pioneers

In the early days of space exploration, space missions mainly used crystalline silicon solar cells for power. Silicon was an obvious choice because it was plentiful and already played a key role in the semiconductor industry. These solar cells worked pretty well in space, with efficiency ratings between 14% and 18%, but they were bulky and heavy. Moreover, the efficiency of solar panels dropped due to the strong radiation outside Earth's atmosphere, leading scientists to search for alternatives that could last longer and perform better.

Gallium Arsenide: The Space Champions

As we've gotten better at making solar panels, gallium arsenide (GaAs) cells have started to outshine silicon ones in space missions. These cells work better in space, boasting a current solar panel efficiency of over 30% and handling space radiation well without wearing out too quickly. However, making GaAs cells is expensive due to the rare materials needed and the complicated manufacturing. This prompted the search for more economically viable alternatives.

Yingli Solar, a leading manufacturer of photovoltaic products, offers high-quality solar panels and solutions for residential, commercial, and utility-scale projects.

Perovskite Solar Cells: The New Frontier

Enter perovskite solar cells, a breakthrough in solar energy that's catching everyone's attention. Known for their superior properties, such as the ability to absorb a wide range of light, perovskites are showing great potential. So far, they've managed to reach solar panel efficiency of up to 25.5% for single-junction cells and 26.7% for tandem cells.

Even though we're just beginning to use perovskite solar cells for use in space, their benefits over the usual gallium arsenide cells are already clear. Perovskites promise to bring us solar panels that are both more affordable and versatile. As studies continue, these cells are rapidly closing the solar power efficiency gap, suggesting they might soon become a preferred choice for powering space missions.

The Future of Perovskite Cells in Space Missions

Merida’s work on solar cells for satellites could change the game in how we power space tech. This bold move could make satellites more efficient and cheaper, which is great news for modern communication and observation systems. Perovskite cells can handle space's tough radiation and soak up sunlight really well, making them an optimal choice. Their effectiveness was further validated by NASA's testing, showing that perovskite cells perform well in the challenging conditions of space.

The shift from older solar cell types to perovskites underscores the drive towards better, more reliable energy options. These cells are quickly becoming more efficient, offer more usage flexibility, and make solar panels cheaper to manufacture. This change goes beyond just upgrading equipment, it’s another step towards more inventive and forward-thinking space exploration.


Key takeaways

Feb 21, 2024

More from 



View All

Get Accurate & Competitive Quotes in Minutes

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.