Education - How Solar Cells Work (Education-Solar Cells) - 10.14.14

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery
ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
The astronaut will discuss in detail how solar cells work and how they provide energy. The activity is videotaped and for use in classroom lectures.

Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by Christopher J. Ferguson, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.

Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)

  • Christopher J. Ferguson, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

  • Co-Investigator(s)/Collaborator(s)
  • Jonathan Neubauer, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, United States

  • Developer(s)
    Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, United States

    Sponsoring Space Agency
    National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

    Sponsoring Organization
    Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)

    Research Benefits
    Information Pending

    ISS Expedition Duration
    April 2006 - September 2006

    Expeditions Assigned

    Previous ISS Missions
    Similar education activities have been performed on Space Shuttle and ISS Expeditions.

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    Experiment Description

    Research Overview

    • Education-Solar Cells is designed to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

    • Students discover a basic understanding of electricity and power and the variables that affect the operation of solar panels.

    • Students learn about the power requirements of the International Space Station and how solar arrays supply the necessary power. Students will also discover power requirements of their own homes and how solar power could supply that power.

    The Teaching From Space Office at the NASA's Johnson Space Center worked closely with Astronaut Christopher Ferguson, pilot of STS-115 (Atlantis); Lockheed Martin Corporation; Oklahoma State University and the Student Observation Network to provide classroom versions of solar cells and learning activities to NASA Explorer Schools. These activities have been designed to engage students through the STS-115 primary mission objective, deployment of a new solar array on the International Space Station (ISS). The original suggestion for this activity was brought to Teaching From Space by Ferguson.

    In his free time during the STS-115 mission, Ferguson will demonstrate how solar cells work in front of a video camera. Ferguson will discuss, in detail, how solar cells provide energy; open circuit voltage; and power measurement with resistors. With the aid of LED lights, a visual demonstration of solar flux will also be performed. Following completion, the video will be edited for use in the classroom.

    Lockheed Martin Corporation donated solar cells to this project for educational purposes. Engineering students at Oklahoma State University linked the solar cells together in packs for use in the Space Shuttle demonstration and for distribution to the schools. The NASA Student Observation Network created lessons and activities that will be provided to the NASA Explorer Schools and the Aerospace Education Specialists when teaching this lesson.

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    Space Applications
    Education-Solar Cells introduces the next generation of explorers to the environment of space.

    Earth Applications
    Using a new approach in the classroom to space flight, science, and mathematics will capture the imagination of students. Allowing students to participate in activities that directly involve NASA will inspire them to pursue careers in science and engineering.

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    Operational Requirements
    Education-Solar Cells will utilize the solar cell pack assembled by Oklahoma State University students to demonstrate how solar cells work. On the Space Shuttle the demonstration will require video taping of the demonstration.

    Operational Protocols
    One crewmember, astronaut Chris Ferguson, will tape the demonstration during his free time on the mission. Following the mission, the video is returned to Earth for editing and distribution to NASA Explorer Schools nationwide along with the curriculum developed by the Student Observation Network.

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    Results/More Information

    There are no results to report at this time.

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    Related Websites

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    image Dan Hern, OSU Masters Student in Aviation and Space Education, works on solar cell hardware that will fly aboard STS-115. Image courtesy of Oklahoma State University.
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