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ISRO buys Space Solar Cell Tech from US, will now manufacture them locally

Highlights
  • Isro has bought the technology for space solar cells from the US and will mass-produce them in the country with the help of the industry
  • Solar cells are needed to power a satellite in space and keep it functional till its lifespan
  • Unlike conventional solar cells used for generating electricity on land, these cells are highly sophisticated and efficient

Giving a big push to the Modi government’s Make-in-India programme, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has bought the technology for space solar cells from the US and will mass-produce them in the country with the help of the industry. Solar cells are needed to power a satellite in space and keep it functional till its lifespan.

Talking to TOI, Isro chairman K Sivan said here, “Till now, we have been procuring space cells from some US private companies for producing our satellites. Being a critical technology, imported cells cost us dear.”

Explaining the reason for the indigenisation of solar cells, the Isro chief said, “Currently, we are totally dependent on US imports for our satellites. Even now, we face import restrictions for buying these solar cells in bulk. If due to some reasons, the import of the critical component stops, our satellite programme will come to a standstill. In order to reduce dependency on imports, we have decided to produce them here.

On cost factor, Sivan said, “For producing a small remote sensing satellite, 1,500 solar cells are needed. For a big satellite like Gsat (communication satellite), around 10,000-15,000 solar cells are imported. Isro used around 20,000 imported solar cells for developing the country’s heaviest satellite Gsat-11. Isro has to shell out Rs 15 crore for import of every 10,000 cells. If these cells are produced in the country, the cost will go down several times.

“Bharat Electronics Ltd has been given the contract to use the technology bought from the US and mass-produce solar cells at an Isro facility in Bengaluru under the supervision of our scientists.”

Unlike conventional solar cells used for generating electricity on land, these cells are highly sophisticated and efficient. Once a satellite is in space, its two solar panels or wings open and start receiving the sunlight. The solar cells on the panels then provide electricity to the satellite by converting solar energy into electrical energy and keep it functional. Without functional solar cells, a satellite loses power and becomes space debris.

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