Solar Cell Fabrication
SolAero’s manufacturing facility, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a world-class facility that includes cleanroom spaces for cell (Class 1k), CIC (Class 1k), and panel manufacturing (Class 10k). SolAero’s cell production line is capitalized to produce >600kWe per year. In a typical year, SolAero produces approximately 350kWe, and therefore has the capacity to increase its annual output by ~50% to support additional production.. As the worldwide leader in triple-junction solar cell production, SolAero demonstrates daily our ability to produce solar cells in high volume with high performance at competitive prices.
SolAero’s CIC production line currently has capacity to produce more than 150 kWe of CICs on an annual basis. Capable of processing various form factors through the use of automated diode assembly and welding equipment, SolAero’s production line, and if required manufacturing support team, is capable of significantly increasing the output through staffing adjustments only – no additional capital is needed.
SolAero has a long heritage of manufacturing flight panels and coupons to varying mission requirements. SolAero has manufactured and successfully thermal cycle/functional tested numerous life-cycle coupons (in excess of 50) and flight panels with all solar cells types and of different sizes and shapes under LEO, GEO, Polar and interplanetary conditions. In the past few years, SolAero has also manufactured a total of 18 ZTJ life-cycle coupons (11 populated two-per-wafer cells and 7 populated with 1-per-wafer cells) to date (8 GEO and 10 LEO). All coupons have passed testing or are presently in test. This includes a coupon with 22,000 GEO cycles. This qualification history makes ZTJ the most thoroughly tested and characterized high efficiency solar cell in history and demonstrated unmatched reliability.
As the world leader in solar product performance, the SolAero product development and production teams continually provide competitive, next generation solutions to the solar industry. SolAero is positioned with technology ideas and solutions that will enable our customers to provide leading-edge solutions to their customers for several years to come. By maintaining a steady qualification coupon roadmap, SolAero has the infrastructure in place to test, qualify and introduce new technologies quickly.
SolAero’s program teams are uniquely experienced in producing solar panel products to varied customer requirements. Through thorough planning, design, and development processes, we ensure that customer requirements are understood and incorporated into our products.
If novel solutions are required for specific missions, SolAero has demonstrated its capabilities in customer engineering, design and development. Innovative electrostatically-clean designs for several NASA missions, partnering with OATK on successful Ultra-Flex solutions on CRS and InSight, and designing from first principles a panel solution for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe program are just some of the demonstrations of SolAero’s engineering capabilities. Today, SolAero is developing methodologies to perform automated laydown on Kapton substrates to produce modules that can be incorporated into higher level assemblies on both flexible and rigid panel substrates.
SolAero maintains a variety of environmental test facilities, including a 96 in. diameter TVAC chamber and numerous ambient thermal cycling chambers. These test chambers enable SolAero to provide timely and cost effective test solutions to OATK, and only in the case of burst capacity or extremely large sizes are the panels taken out of house. Utilization of these capabilities enables SolAero to efficiently manage test events, allows for timely issue resolution, and reduces transportation, handling and logistics that can create schedule delays. All functional tests are performed in house, including the use of a state-of-the-art, multi-spectral Large Area Pulsed Solar Simulator (LAPSS) for solar panel testing. Certain programs also require Hot LAPSS, and SolAero has maintained the US Government’s Hot LAPSS tool for many years, using it for various NASA/OATK programs.
SolAero utilizes a standardized program execution approach to meet contractual requirements and to ensure customers are satisfied with the products and services delivered. SolAero’s program management processes provide full visibility to technical, schedule, and budgetary progress and provide the means to measure and evaluate performance, identify problems/issues, and make effective decisions.
SolAero currently staffs a team of Engineering and Scientist level resources to support solar cell product development. This team consists of subject matter experts in device physics and analytics, semiconductor materials development, semiconductor fabrication, and device characterization. This team has consistently produced industry leading and flight proven products such as ATJ, ZTJ, and now IMM, as well as other supporting semiconductor devices like Si Bypass diodes, blocking diodes, and Resistive Thermocouples (RTD, PRT).
Systems and Integration Engineering (CIC & Panel Product Development and Program Engineering)
SolAero currently staffs Engineering and Scientist level resources to support solar panel products. This team consists of subject matter experts in solar panel layout design and analysis, assembly process development, mechanical component design and analysis, composite structure design and analysis, and array level system design and analysis. This team has led numerous efforts to deliver custom solar panel and solar array designs and products to the satellite industry. Their efforts in solar panel design and analysis continue to be validated by on-orbit performance and reliability that meets or exceeds design expectations.
SolAero currently staffs a team of Engineering level resources to support the solar cell & semiconductor device production lines. This team closely mirrors the product development team in terms of subject matter expertise in semiconductor materials, semiconductor fabrication, and device characterization, with an emphasis on sustaining production and continuous improvement. This team has been critical in technology handoffs and successful transfer to high volume manufacturing for new products. Their efforts consistently meet or exceed product performance and yield requirements to ensure customer needs are met in terms of delivering to expected product cost and performance.