Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No, really, the future is solar

A data point on the march to solar power's inevitable triumph: NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter will be powered by solar panels. This is remarkable. Previous Jovian missions have been powered by on-board radioactive generators because solar panels couldn't possibly gather enough sunlight at Jupiter's distance to power the on board electronics. The sunlight available at Jupiter's distance is only 1/25th to 1/30th of the energy streaming through space at Earth's distance from the sun, so being able to sustain an unmanned space probe on such thin nourishment is truly a remarkable accomplishment.


adam said...

Hmm, so I wonder if this is a product of greater efficiency for the onboard systems, of the panels, or both? The panels are large, but it seems they still couldn't get away with this without an improvement somewhere.

john said...

I suspect the answer is both. Solar efficiencies have doubled or more, but I suspect the onboard efficiency has improved by a greater margin.