What are the Different Types of Solar Panels used in Space?

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Sep 19, 2022

Crystalline Silicon Panels

Crystalline Silicon Panels were first used in 1958 for the VANGUARD-1 satellite. Panels made from silicon have a much lower efficiency i.e 15-20% electricity generated because silicon panels can only absorb visible sunlight and not infrared & UV rays. Additionally, silicon panels are more susceptible to degradation over time due to the development of microcracks in the panel which will reduce the overall life & performance of the solar panel.

Gallium Arsenide Panels

Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) Panels proved to be an excellent replacement for crystalline silicon panels in the 1980s. GaAs panels provided a much higher efficiency when compared with crystalline silicon panels. The degradation over time is much lesser when compared to silicon panels & it is observed that GaAs panels perform efficiently even when subjected to high heat.

Multijunction (MJ) Solar Panels

To enhance the efficiency of solar panels, multijunction (MJ) solar panels were developed. MJ solar panels are made up of multiple layers. They consist of a combination of Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs), Germanium (Ge) & Indium Gallium Phosphide (InGaP). 

These multiple layers help absorb different spectrum (visible, infrared, UV) of solar and provides maximum efficiency (40-50%) for spacecraft and satellites. MJ Solar panels are expensive but are used effectively in modern spacecraft & satellites.

International Space Station (ISS) uses MJ solar panels to power everything on the space station. Approximately 262,400 solar panels are used to power the ISS which generates around 120 kW of power which also includes the time spent in the earth’s shadow. 

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Space Missions - A list of all Space Missions

esa

Name Date
Altius 01 May, 2025
Arctic Weather Satellite (AWS) 01 Mar, 2024
Eutelsat Quantum 30 Jul, 2021
Sentinel 6 21 Nov, 2020
Cheops 18 Dec, 2019
EDRS 06 Aug, 2019
BepiColombo 20 Oct, 2018
Aeolus 22 Aug, 2018
Sentinel 3B 25 Apr, 2018
Sentinel 5 13 Oct, 2017

isro

Name Date
INSAT-3DS 17 Feb, 2024
XPoSat 01 Jan, 2024
Aditya-L1 02 Sep, 2023
DS-SAR 30 Jul, 2023
Chandrayaan-3 14 Jul, 2023
NVS-01 29 May, 2023
TeLEOS-2 22 Apr, 2023
OneWeb India-2 26 Mar, 2023
EOS-07 10 Feb, 2023
EOS-06 26 Nov, 2022

jaxa

Name Date
XRISM 07 Sep, 2023
SLIM 07 Sep, 2023
ALOS-3 07 Mar, 2023
ISTD-3 07 Oct, 2022
HTV9 21 May, 2020
HTV8 25 Sep, 2019
HTV7 23 Sep, 2018
HTV6 09 Dec, 2016
HTV5 19 Aug, 2015
HTV4 04 Aug, 2013

nasa

Name Date
NEO Surveyor 01 Jun, 2028
Libera 01 Dec, 2027
Europa Clipper 10 Oct, 2024
SpaceX CRS-29 09 Nov, 2023
Psyche 13 Oct, 2023
DSOC 13 Oct, 2023
Psyche Asteroid 05 Oct, 2023
Expedition 70 27 Sep, 2023
SpaceX Crew-7 25 Aug, 2023
STARLING 18 Jul, 2023