There is a lot of discussion about refueling rockets in deep space. This is to be managed by electrolysis of water powered by solar cells. This requires a lot of energy so one needs a lot of solar cells. This might increase the costs of such missions dramatically.

So what is actually the price for solar cells for space, i.e. the solar panels for a cubesat or a large com sat?


closed as too broad by uhoh, geoffc, Nathan Tuggy, Rory Alsop, kim holder Dec 23 '17 at 14:47

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  • $\begingroup$ Water may be split into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis. But gaseous hydrogen and oxygen is not a good fuel, it requires heavy and large tanks to be stored under high pressure. That is why hydrogen and oxygen is used only in liquid form as rocket fuel. But how to liquify and store those gases for longer time in zero gravity? $\endgroup$ – Uwe Dec 21 '17 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe - the Lockheed Martin Deepspace Gateway uses this concept to provide fuel for the MADVs, with water being shuttled from earth by commercial carriers, processed on the orbiting platform to in-space refuel the MADVs before each mission. $\endgroup$ – JCRM Dec 21 '17 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ The cost for the cells alone will vary over a very large range if you want to lump cubesats, GEO communication satellites, and a fuel depot in deep space all together in one question. Issues like efficiency (from silicon to III-V triple-junction), lifetime, and reliability can each have huge impact on the cost. There's also a cost associated with orienting them. Some are stuck on the side of a cube sat, others are on large panels with their own articulation and computer systems. I think you should narrow this question down. What kind of PV application do you really want to ask about? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 21 '17 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh. Your are right. Let's take some specific cases: a smal 2u cubesat whose panels are attached on its surface and a lifetime of 5y / a geo-comsat with large arrays with a lifetime of 15 / a space station like ISS or DS gateway (lifetime ?). What I would like to know is not an exact amount but a cost range. $\endgroup$ – Peter Dec 22 '17 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Peter comments are good to clarify, but once you decide, you should make the edits to your original question. Comments are considered "temporary". $\endgroup$ – uhoh Dec 22 '17 at 13:56

I couldn't find it on the wayback machine, but Andrews Space (now Spaceflight Industries) used to have listed on their website a 6U form-factor solar panel for $$17,500 that produced about 20 W max power. (Link to old press release) Given the number of cells per panel that's about $1,100 per cell on average, integrated into a space-qualified and acceptance-tested panel that was roughly 20 × 30 cm.

Raw cells themselves are much cheaper around 1/3 to 1/4 the cost; unfortunately I don't have any quotes that I can post.

Disclosure: I worked at Andrews Space when the above mentioned product was developed and for sale. I’m no longer there and it no longer is listed for sale on their website.


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