CORDIS - EU research results

Advanced Lightweight and Flexible Array with Mechanical Architecture

Project description

Pioneering photovoltaics increase the power of space satellites without increasing mass and costs

Photovoltaic technology has advanced tremendously since the first practical silicon solar cell was demonstrated in 1954. Photovoltaics are now powering homes, businesses, public lighting, and more recently, satellites. Increasing solar electric propulsion power will provide a turbo-boost to human space exploration and space-related satellite applications. However, innovation is required to keep satellite mass and costs low. The EU-funded ALFAMA project is addressing this need with pioneering technology that will increase satellite power to mass ratio by more than 50 % and more than quadruple power density, at a cost less than that of current systems thanks to high-throughput assembly.


More and more missions require power supply > 25 kW such as solar electrical propulsion, high throughput satellites. However, the restricted volume between the fairing and the spacecraft sidewall limits the number & the dimension of rigid solar panels during launch. Therefore, the answer for this growing power demand lies neither in stacking more rigid solar arrays, nor by marginal efficiency improvements on III-V multi-junction solar cells, but rather in innovative/disruptive photovoltaic solutions. More solar cells per unit of volume are needed in stowed configuration, and flexible solar arrays are the only answer for this high-power challenge.

In this context, ALFAMA project brings answers for the mass, cost & power challenge, with ambitions at each level of the solar array:
- The mechanical architecture, with a modular & retractable deployment system
- The photovoltaic assembly fabrication process, with printed harness & lamination for easier integration, manufacturing and high voltage protection
- The PVA structure, with thin flexible layers for high power/mass & power/volume ratio, adapted to epitaxial lift-off
- The solar cells, with the development of highly efficient & lightweight III-V IMM lift-off cells.

ALFAMA brings together a team of 8 partners, leaders in their field, from 3 EU-member states, who will join their efforts towards the realization of a disruptive solar array technology (end TRL 4-5), with the following key performances:
1/ Power/mass ratio increased by ≥ 50% with III-V lift-off solar cells
2/ Cost reduction with high throughput assembly process
3/ Power density increased more than 4 times with compact stowed configuration
4/ Relevant roadmaps for space & non-space applications

ALFAMA's drastic improvements will enhance the EU space sector competitiveness, enable new missions and build synergies between space and non-space activities.

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Net EU contribution
€ 904 728,10
2333 CS Leiden

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West-Nederland Zuid-Holland Agglomeratie Leiden en Bollenstreek
Activity type
Private for-profit entities (excluding Higher or Secondary Education Establishments)
Total cost
€ 904 728,10

Participants (7)