NASA has announced that a small satellite, designed and built by Brown University students, will ride on a future rocket launch.

NASA to launch new satellite that tests PSCs imageImage credit: Brown University

The new satellite, dubbed PVDX (Perovskite Visuals and Degradation eXperiment), is a cubesat — a class of miniature satellites ideal for doing low-cost science experiments or technology demonstration in space. Members of Brown Space Engineering (BSE), a student group, worked for three years to develop a mission plan and proposal for NASA’s Cubesat Launch Initiative, which uses auxiliary cargo space on rockets to send cubesats to space.

The primary mission of PVDX will be to test the performance of next-generation perovskite solar cells in the harsh orbital environment. A research team led by Brown professor Nitin Padture has made key contributions to the development of perovskites, and the BSE team will work with Padture’s group to develop perovskite cells for PVDX. The team aims to find out how this type of solar cell performs in an environment where temperatures can swing by as much a 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’re planning on flying 30 perovskite cells of varying compositions and comparing them to gallium arsenide cells, which are pretty standard in aerospace applications,” said Lauren Adachi, technical lead and co-president of BSE. “We’ll be flying both kinds of cells so we’ll be able to do a side-by-side comparison of how they perform.”