Extraterrestrial Power Ltd (ETP) and UNSW partner to develop cost-effective silicon solar cells for satellites.
A key challenge for the growing space industry is finding ways to reduce overall satellite constellation costs. Power systems are a good place to start, as they usually make up a third of the costs.
Extraterrestrial Power's mission is to deliver mass-manufacturable, radiation-tolerant, silicon solar cells for 10x cheaper than current space solar cells.
Along with supporting the satellite constellation market, ETP also has long-term ambitions to become the electricity provider of the solar system, which in turn will enable other emerging lunar market opportunities, such as space exploration, habitation, and space tourism, to become a reality.
“There is just so much power that is going to be required in space, but we have very little today,” Peter Toth, CEO & Co-founder - ETP.
As part of a three-year ARC Linkage Project research collaboration, ETP and UNSW will pave the way for the production of space solar cells using terrestrial technologies. They will also explore how to manufacture solar cells on the moon using lunar materials and techniques that exploit the natural vacuum in space.
The project will focus on the fabrication of radiation-tolerant silicon solar cells, which will provide power for satellites, water mining, oxygen extraction, vehicles and habitats on the moon, along with the delivery of materials to Low Earth Orbit.
The research outcomes will support ETP’s immediate need to provide satellite constellation clients (as well as other applications where cost matters) with cost-effective power generation solutions.
“We want to deliver affordable power to humanity in space. Our solar cells are going to be at least ten times cheaper than existing space cells.”
ETP recently submitted their first patent with UNSW, demonstrating the benefit of the partnership from an intellectual property perspective.
“We're going to grow together. The company side might need to grow faster, but it will mean more research collaboration with UNSW in the future.”
The project is still in its early stage but over time it expects to contribute to Australia's economic growth by developing solutions, services, IP, and job opportunities for power generation in space.
"I'm extremely enthusiastic about solar energy as a sustainable power source for humanity. UNSW is well-known and respected worldwide for their solar cell research work, so our collaboration is an extremely promising win-win scenario in this field."