Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Electrical Engineering (MEE)

Document Type

Master's Thesis




Electrical Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Janet K. Lumpp


Body mounted germanium substrate solar cell arrays form the faces of many small satellite designs to provide the primary power source on orbit. High efficiency solar cells are made affordable for university satellite programs as triangular devices trimmed from wafer scale solar cells. The smaller cells allow array designs to pack tightly around antenna mounts and payload instruments, giving the board design flexibility. One objective of this work is to investigate the reliability of solar cells attached to FR-4 printed circuit boards. FR-4 circuit boards have significantly higher thermal expansion coefficients and lower thermal conductivities than germanium. This thermal expansion coefficient mismatch between the FR-4 board and the components causes concern for the power system in terms of failures seen by the solar cells. These failures are most likely to occur with a longer orbital lifetime and an extended exposure to harsh environments. This work compares various methods of attaching solar cells to printed circuit boards, using solder paste alone and with a silicone adhesive, and considering the application of these adhesives by comparing the solder joints when printed by screen versus a stencil. An environmental test plan was used to compare the survivability and performance of the solar arrays.