Solar cells that power the International Space Station are produced at local company in Sylmar

Spectrolab will soon deliver the next batch of solar cells that will power the ISS for future generations of astronauts.

Amanda Palacios Image
Thursday, August 31, 2023
Solar cells that power the ISS are produced at company in Sylmar
The International Space Station has made it possible for people to have a sustained presence in space. But it may be surprising to some people that the solar cells that power the ISS are produced at Spectrolab in Sylmar.

SYLMAR, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- At Spectrolab in Sylmar, you will find workers creating thousands of solar cells. These units absorb sunlight in space and convert the sunlight into electrical power. The solar cells have been crucial in powering U.S. space missions and satellites for the past six decades.

"Spectrolab is a subsidiary of the Boeing company and it's located right here in our backyard. What we do here is build solar panels for spacecraft," said Spectrolab President and CEO Miquelle Milavec.

"We start from raw materials and we build all the way up to the array level," said Julie Hoskin, Vice President of solar products for Spectrolab.

Spectrolab solar cells have been launched into space for many different missions. From the first ever satellite to broadcast live TV, to the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, to the NASA Mars Rover Opportunity and even the NASA Juno mission to Jupiter.

"Spectrolab has powered more than 1,000 missions in its 67-year history. One of the major things we're working on right now here in the factory is building solar panels for the International Space Station," Milavec said. "We powered the first set of solar panels over 20 years ago and now we're working on augmenting several other panels."

Unlike the solar panels you see on Angelenos' rooftops, the Spectrolab solar cells are more robust because they have to withstand a harsh space environment.

"The technology that is used on the International Space Station puts solar cells on a sheet, almost like a canvas that can then be rolled up and launched into the International Space Station," Milavec said.

Spectrolab says the solar panels will soon be delivered to its partner, Redwire who will prepare them for launch by NASA.

"We are excited to get those final cells completed and on their way to their final destination in outer space," Milavec said.

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