Dust Abrasion Damage on Martian Solar Arrays: Experimental Investigation and Opportunity Rover Performance Analysis
Lyndsey McMillon-Brown1,2, Timothy Peshek1, AnnaMaria Pal1, Matthew Myers1, Jeremiah McNatt1
1NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, United States
/2Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States

Here we investigate the effects of erosion and weathering that occur on III-V cover-glass interconnected cells (CICs) after exposure to Mars dust storm conditions. The durability of these materials in a Martian environment is not well characterized so we perform analogous experimentation. To replicate the dust impingement, test coupons were placed in an enclosure and sandblasted with Mars dust simulant. We show the J-V response dependency on both incident angle and exposure times. We find that the simulated Martian dust storm often results in damage to the anti-reflective coating and subsequent reduced short circuit current. Reduction in the open circuit voltage is observed, likely caused by structural damage to the crystal lattice after CIC fracture. We employ data-driven modeling to determine a performance degradation rate that is consistent with zero within uncertainty. We also quantify the soiling contribution and power degradation of the photovoltaic cells on Mars through analysis of 4.95 Martian years of report-out power conditions from the Opportunity rover.  We find that atmospheric dust suspended due to a weather event does not result in instantaneous settled dust on the PV cells. We calculate via autocorrelation function that the dust settling rate is approximately 21 Sols from atmospheric dust suspension. The findings presented here deliver a realistic approximation for the insolation values and subsequent PV power expected over time on the Martian surface thus informing future dust abatement systems.