From European Space Agency: “Glowing solar cell”

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From European Space Agency

Glowing solar cell
Copyright ESA–SJM Photography

A solar cell is being turned into a light source by running electric current through it. Such ‘luminescence’ testing is performed routinely in ESA’s Solar Generator Laboratory, employed to detect cell defects – such as the cracks highlighted here.

Solar array testing

By happy accident the solar (or ‘photovoltaic’) cell was invented in 1954, just before the start of the Space Age, allowing satellites to run off the abundant sunshine found in Earth orbit and beyond.

Made from the same kind of semiconductor materials as computer circuits, solar cells are designed so that incoming sunlight generates an electric current. But the process can be reversed for test purposes: apply an electric charge and a solar cell will glow.

Solar cells, carefully assembled together into arrays, are an essential part of space missions, together with specially-designed batteries for times when a satellite needs more power, passes into darkness or faces a power emergency – plus the power conditioning and distribution electronics keeping all parts of a mission supplied with the power they require.

“Space power technologies are second only to launchers in ensuring European competitiveness and non-dependence,” comments Véronique Ferlet-Cavrois, Head of ESA’s Power Systems, EMC & Space Environment Division.

“Without the research and development ESA performs with European industry to ensure the continued availability of high-performance space power systems and components we would be left utterly reliant on foreign suppliers, or missions wouldn’t fly at all. We will be taking a look back at the important work done during the last three decades during this month’s European Space Power Conference.”

The 12th European Space Power Conference (ESPC) is taking take place in Juan-les-Pins, Côte d’Azur, France, from 30 September to 4 October, with almost 400 participants. Véronique is chairing the event.

“It will begin 30 years to the week from the very first conference in the series,” adds ESA power conditioning engineer Mariel Triggianese, ESPC’s technical coordinator.

“So we’ll be commemorating our past but also looking forward. Our theme is ‘Space Power, Achievements and Challenges’. The chief technology officers from Airbus, Thales, Ariane Group and OHB will be joined by ESA’s Director of Technology Engineering and Quality, Franco Ongaro, to discuss the space power needs of their markets into the future.”

See the full article here .

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The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

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