DoD awards $14 million to 5N Plus to boost production of critical solar cell components for satellites – SpaceNews

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WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced April 16 it awarded a $14.4 million contract to semiconductor manufacturer 5N Plus to boost production of space-qualified materials for solar cells.

The funding from the Defense Production Act investment program is to sustain and expand the capability to produce germanium substrates used in solar cells for defense, civil and commercial satellites.

“Space-based capabilities are vital to U.S. national security,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy Laura Taylor-Kale. “This effort will feed supply chains that support the space power ecosystem while also helping ensure the long-term business viability of the U.S. defense industrial base for space-qualified germanium wafers.”

The Defense Production Act investment program is a key tool used by DoD to make targeted investments to strengthen critical supply chains and bolster domestic manufacturing capabilities. It grants the federal government broad authorities to influence private sector production and the distribution of materials and resources deemed necessary for national defense.

By supporting companies that produce essential materials, the DoD aims to reduce reliance on foreign sources and bolster the domestic industrial base. 

5N Plus makes germanium wafers and semiconductor substrates used to produce ultra-high efficiency photovoltaic (PV) solar cells for satellite power generation.

Supplier to key space missions

5N Plus subsidiary Azur Space Solar Power supplied solar cells for the Indian Space Research Organization’s lunar exploration mission Chandrayaan-3.

Azur Space Solar Power also provides solar panels to Sierra Space for its DreamChaser spacecraft, and both companies have signed a strategic agreement to jointly develop solar cell technology.

According to market studies, demand for solar power for space applications is rapidly accelerating and expected to exceed current available capacity.

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