US DoD funds solar cell production for military satellites – Airforce Technology – Airforce Technology

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Through the Defense Production Act Investment (DPAI), the US Department of Defense (DoD) has appropriated $14.4m to support the production of germanium substrates in solar cells that are fitted onto military satellites.

These funds will help the supplier, 5N Plus Semiconductors, to maintain and expand its production capabilities.

This effort supports the 2024 National Defense Industrial Strategy, released in January, to continue and expand support for domestic production within the resilient supply chains strategic priority area. 

Ultimately, the Strategy focuses on four key areas critical to building a modernised defense industrial ecosystem over the next three to five years. Those areas include resilient supply chains, workforce readiness flexible acquisition and economic deterrence.

These latest funds will accommodate 5N Plus as part of US efforts to secure supply chain resilience.

At the time of the release, Taylor-Kale noted China’s increasing threat to upend the existing international order. Industry commentators have observed that China has made striking progress with its own space-based capabilities in such a short amount of time.

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

The award will allow the company to upgrade and expand production facilities and tools while minimising production variability.

In addition, the initiative will address process integration with solar cell producers’ evolving germanium substrate requirements.

The effort also includes improvements in germanium sourcing, recovery, and refining. 

Finally, it supports product diversification to ensure long-term merchant supplier business viability. The technical effort will take place at 5N Plus’ facility in St. George, Utah and is planned to last four years. 

This is the latest of 13 awards made by the DPAI programme across multiple areas totaling $322m since the beginning of fiscal year 2024. DPAI is overseen by the Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritisation Program, in Taylor-Kale’s office.

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