The need for high-power solar arrays originates from the advent of the New Space revolution which allows hundreds and thousands of shoebox-sized satellites to be launched at a relatively low cost. But in order to achieve their mission, these often need large deployable structures in space to allow high performance applications which demand high power levels. These might include communication constellations or nanosatellites with electric propulsion.
This immediate need for high power solar arrays for nano satellites initiated the Power Cube project which is carried out under an ESA ARTES AT contract with DcubeD as prime (project management, subsystem development, assembly, testing) in close partnership with the companies German Orbital Systems GmbH (market overview, reference mission requirements, testing) and AZUR Space GmbH (solar cell development), as well as the academic partner Technische Hochschule Deggendorf (materials and structures R&D).
The aim of Power Cube is to develop a scalable deployable solar array for nanosatellites, which should be storable within a volume inferior to that of a CubeSat Unit (1U) and capable of generating 100W at EOL (End of Life). The main advantage is that, seeing as the solar array will be stored entirely within the satellite, all sides of the satellite will be free, whereas CubeSat side panels are typically covered with conventional, occasionally foldable solar arrays. This will offer great flexibility and therefore numerous new mission possibilities. It is also important to note that such power levels for this volume have not yet been achieved.
The 4-member consortium will carry out the system design, as well as the manufacturing of critical breadboards to de-risk the activities leading to the development of a full-scale engineering model, which will be designed, built and tested functionally in the relevant environment.
To reach this objective, a state-of-the-art review and the corresponding requirements definition are currently being carried out, in order to ensure that the 100W array is fully adapted to the needs of its future users.
As such, the main system requirements are the following:
- Minimizing the array’s stowed volume
- Maximize reliability of deployment
- Maximize power generation per stowed volume and
- Demonstrating scalability of the concept, so it might be used in conjunction with multiple CubeSat units.