Sierra Space's Surface Mount Technology (SMT) solar array is a game-changing technique that increases power density, reduces lead-time and lowers system costs.
By utilizing a surface mount capable cell, industry standard pick-and-place automation replaces the time-consuming and labor-intensive solar panel assembly process.
10% Increased Power Density
By using smaller cells and improved manufacturing techniques, the packing factor for both simple and complex solar array shapes improves significantly. Panels can be optimized by placing cells closer together and reducing waste around panel mechanical interfaces.
Reduced Lead Time
Instead of using larger cells to reduce labor hours, SNC’s solution optimizes manufacturing using robotics, resulting in a zero-touch labor process. Utilizing a “one-size-fits-all” solar cell strategy, Sierra Space can stock solar cells in large quantities to minimize design and manufacturing time.
Some power systems approach 50% of total satellite costs. With decreased design time, the ability to volume manufacture cells and human-free assembly, Sierra Space’s SMT dramatically reduces solar array costs while increasing quality and reliability.
SMT Flight History
- In 2017, the SMT became flight-proven on board the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Satellite for High Accuracy Radar Calibration (SHARC) mission. The 5U cubesat solar array panel took three months from purchase order to delivery, with the pick-and-place process taking less than an hour. The functional testing for the SHARC panel included vibration testing, thermal cycling, large area pulsed solar simulator exposures, and numerous electrical verification tests.
- The SMT solar array provided approximately 11W of power to the SHARC spacecraft – 25% more power than a conventional array. The system showed no significant signs of degradation in performance throughout the mission life (~10 months).
- Sierra Space recently delivered 130W of SMT solar power for a GEO demonstration mission and 200W for a small LEO mission both slated for launch in 2021.
- Sierra Space also recently launched SMT solar panels that provide the primary power for a small LEO demonstration mission. The power system is performing flawlessly and we continue to collect on-orbit data.