Goleta, CA--When NASA's Deep Space 1 (DS1) probe lifts off this October, a unique lens system will enable its solar panels to generate power from a solar-cell area 1/6th the size of conventional silicon devices. A pair of Scarlet(TM) solar-array wings from AEC-Able Engineering Company uses refractive Fresnel lenses to concentrate light onto the cells, thus less material is required--lowering the spacecraft's bottom line.
The panels are critical to the mission. They supply not only power for electronics but for the vehicle's electric propulsion system as well. Each of the 206 X 63-inch gallium arsenide (GaAs)-based array wings will produce 1.3 kW. The light-concentrating Fresnel lenses are silicon with a thin glass coating. Although more expensive per unit area than conventional silicon arrays, the more efficient (at 23%) multijunction GaAs cells further reduce the required solar-cell area, which, in turn, cuts spacecraft size and mass. Net result: cost is half that of conventional planar panels.
The technology-demonstrating DS1 probe will fly by the near-Earth asteroid 1992 KD in July 1999. After its original technology-demonstration mission ends the following October, DS1 may be directed to encounter comets Wilson-Harrington and Borrelly.