BepiColombo heading towards Mercury

What benefits does the Solar Generator Laboratory deliver?

The Solar Generator Laboratory delivers independent solar generator performance and life testing throughout all phases of a project from initial prototyping to in-flight operations, as well as providing hands-on training opportunities.

It also works to provide guidance and coordination to external laboratories in the harmonisation of methods and procedures for assessing next generation technologies. The Laboratory maintains close links with external laboratories including Spain's Spasolab at INTA and Germany's Solar Energy Calibration Laboratory at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems as well as commercial facilities.

The Solar Generator Laboratory's testing has supported the development of low-intensity low-temperature (LILT) solar cells able to operate at much lower temperatures than traditional cells. LILT solar cells are already powering ESA's Rosetta comet-rendezvous mission on its voyage beyond Mars; the technology should allow solar-powered spacecraft to operate all the way to Jupiter.

The Laboratory is also helping to test solar cells designed to cope with much higher rates of solar flux. ESA's next-decade BepiColombo mission to Mercury will face solar radiation ten times more intense than Earth orbit.

Perhaps the single most valuable contribution of the Laboratory is its early characterisation of novel solar cell structures. This helps to ensure the right approach is being taken, communicating results to the broader European research and industrial communities.

Last update: 29 September 2009

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