Solar energy harvesting on-board small satellites

Fiona Leverone*, Matteo Pini, Angelo Cervone, Eberhard Gill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


Small satellites are receiving increased recognition in the space domain due to their reduced associated launch costs and shorter lead time when compared to larger satellites. However, this advantage is often at the expense of mission capabilities, such as available electrical power and propulsion. A possible solution is to shift from the conventional solar photovoltaic and battery configuration to a micro-Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) and thermal energy storage system that uses the waste energy from a solar thermal propulsion system. However, limited literature is available on micro-ORC systems, which are capable of producing a few hundred Watts of electrical power. This paper describes the proposed system layout and model of the integrated micro-ORC system, for various working fluids such as Toluene, Hexamethyldisiloxane (MM), and Octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4). Toluene has been identified as a promising working fluid candidate resulting in a power generation system volume fraction of 18% for a 215 kg Low Earth Orbit satellite. The micro-ORC system is capable of producing 200 W of electrical power. The design provides high specific energies of at least 500 Wh/kg but, has a low shared specific power of 10 W/kg. A preliminary design of the micro-turbine provides a conservative total-to-static efficiency of 57%.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)954-972
Number of pages19
JournalRenewable Energy
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Micro-ORC turbines
  • Optimisation
  • Phase change material
  • Radial-inflow turbine
  • Solar concentration


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