Photovoltaic arrays for Martian surface power

Joseph Appelbaum, Geoffrey A. Landis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Missions to Mars will require electric power. A leading candidate for providing power is solar power provided by photovoltaic arrays. To design such a power system, detailed information on solar radiation availability on the Martian surface is necessary. The variation of the solar radiation on the Martian surface is governed by three factors: (1) variation in Mars-Sun distance, (2) variation in solar zenith angle due to Martian season and time of day, and (3) dust in the Martian atmosphere. A major concern is the dust storms, which occur on both local and global scales. However, there is still appreciable diffuse sunlight available even at high opacity, so that solar array operation is still possible. Typical results for tracking solar collectors are also shown and compared to the fixed collectors. During the northern hemisphere spring and summer the insolation is relatively high, 2-5 kW-hr/m2-day, due to the low optical depth of the Martian atmosphere. These seasons, totalling a full terrestrial year, are the likely ones during which manned missions will be carried out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-142
Number of pages16
JournalActa Astronautica
Issue numberC
StatePublished - Jul 1993
Externally publishedYes


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