Spacecraft Solar Arrays


This three-day course takes a bottoms-up approach to describe spacecraft photovoltaics from basic quantum and semiconductor physics through flight mission applications. The cell technology section evaluates available and future photovoltaic technologies. The panel section explores practical array design details. The systems section explores power regulation, system analyses, and mission applications. The course cites multiple real-life examples to illustrate the relevancy of the presented material.

Course Outline:

Day 1—Solar Cell Technology:

  1. Physics of Photovoltaics. Fundamental quantum and semiconductor physics of solar cells.
  2. Solar Cell Technologies. The basic building block – the solar cell. Solar cell design and fabrication. Comparative evaluation of available and future technologies including quantum dots and polymeric cells.
  3. Cell Performance and Degradation. Solar cell performance and how it changes in response to operating environments including illumination, temperature, radiation, and applied voltage. Step-by-step methods of solar cell radiation analyses.
  4. Test and Measurement. Methods and challenges of solar cell performance testing, including spectral fidelity and thermal considerations.

Day 2—Solar Panels & Arrays:

  1. Panel Design. Cell circuit design for mission requirements. Layout techniques for magnetics, shadowing, and manufacturability. Discussion of every component and material used in panel fabrication. Mass estimating. Basic thermal analysis.
  2. Array Types. Descriptions and trade-offs of array design and deployment variations. Body-mounted v Deployed. Rigid v Flexible. Concentrator Systems.
  3. Handling, Test and Measurement. Panel-level testing, including inspections, electrical performance, thermal vacuum, and mechanical tests. Handling considerations unique to solar arrays. Array repair methods and considerations.

Day 3—Photovoltaic Systems:

  1. PV System Architectures. Methods of array power regulation. Multiple Direct Energy Transfer and Peak Power Tracking topologies.
  2. PV System Analyses. Energy balance. Basic orbital analysis. Illumination Analysis. Mission performance analyses.
  3. PV Applications. Mission, system, and programmatic considerations. Requirements-based look at flight mission use of PV technology, including orbital, deep-space, lunar, and Mars surface applications.


This course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses. If you are interested in attending this or another course as open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or at and indicate the course name and number of students who wish to participate. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a lead time of 3-5 months. Group courses can be presented at your facility at any time. For on-site pricing, request an on-site quote. You may also call us at (410)956-8805 or email us at


  • Jay Jenkins is a Systems Engineer in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA and an Associate Fellow in the AIAA. His 24-year aerospace career provided many years of experience in design, analysis and test of aerospace power systems, solar arrays, and batteries. His career has afforded him opportunities for hands-on fabrication and testing, concurrent with his design responsibilities. He has been recognized as a winner of the ASME International George Westinghouse Silver Medal for his development of the first solar arrays beyond Mars’ orbit and the first solar arrays to orbit the planet Mercury. He has been recognized with two Best Paper Awards in the area of Aerospace Power Systems.

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