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Lunar Rover Solar Panels

Friday, April 29th, 2016

We have been working on the solar top for the Lunar Rover. The rover will use six 15.4V PowerFilm solar panels (PT15-300) to generate a total of 1.2 Amps @ 15.4V, which will be used to charge the 3-cell 12V lithium-ion battery. Each panel is 10.6″ x 12.8″. We selected the PowerFilm panels because they were thin, flexible, rugged, easy to work with, and came in a variety of shapes and sizes. We mounted the panels in between a sandwich of custom-designed, CNC-machined carbon fiber plates that we designed for the purpose. We used carbon fiber (provided by DragonPlate) because it was light weight and rigid. The plates are held together with small, black, #2-56 screws. Because we wanted the area between the plates to be thin, we didn’t use our normal 24 AWG wire, which was too thick. Instead, we used copper conductive strip, which is flat. When mounted on the robot, two of the panels will be in the central, fixed position. There will also be a pair of panels on “solar wings” on each side. The wings will start out folded on top of the robot’s main body over the two fixed panels. When we want to deploy the solar wings, small motors will open them up like the pedals of a flower, exposing all six panels to the sun. This design allows us to keep the robot compact for transport, but have three times the surface area and therefore three times the current for charging the batteries.

ASSEMBLING THE SOLAR PANELS BETWEEN THE CARBON FIBER PLATES

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WE USED CARBON FIBER TO MINIMIZE WEIGHT, BUT MAXIMIZE RIGIDITY IN THE SOLAR WINGS

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TO KEEP IT FLAT, WE USED CONDUCTIVE COPPER STRIP RATHER THAN WIRES. THE “FINGERS” (SHORT LINES) OF THE SOLAR PANEL POINT TOWARD THE NEGATIVE SIDE. THE “KNUCKLES” ARE ON THE POSITIVE SIDE.

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WHEN THE SOLAR WINGS ARE MOUNTED ON THE ROBOT, THESE SMALL MOTORS WILL BE USED TO OPEN THE WINGS

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THE COMPLETED SOLAR PANELSOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Comments (2)

  1. Julie Holtan
    April 30th, 2016

    That’s awesome! So fascinating to read about! Where will the Lunar Rover end up when it is completed?

  2. Camille
    April 30th, 2016

    We are building this prototype of a Lunar Rover for a rocket company in the UK called SpaceLS. They will be using it for design, testing, and demonstration purposes. This prototype is the first step to the real Lunar Rover that we will be building with them, which they will actually send to the moon on one of their rockets.

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