Nasa has selected four proposals to develop solar technologies for deepspace missions, as part of its Game Changing Development (GCD) programme.
Proposals are from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Boeing, Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and ATK Space Systems.
The four proposals have been selected from 13 received in response to Nasa's research announcement for solar arrays that can operate in high-radiation and low-temperature environments.
The new-generation solar power technologies are expected to improve space mission performance, increase solar array life, and may allow solar-powered vehicles to explore deeper into space than ever before, Nasa said.
Nasa will award initial contracts worth nearly $400,000 for the proposals, in addition to providing funding for nine months of system design, component testing and analysis.
Nasa Space Technology Mission Directorate GCD programme executive Lanetra Tate said: "These awards will greatly enhance our ability to further develop and enhance low-intensity low-temperature (LILT) performance by employing new solar cell designs.
"The ultimate goal of increasing end-of-life performance and enhanced space power applications will greatly impact how we execute extended missions, especially to the outer planets."
Upon completion of the first nine months, Nasa plans Phase 2 where two of these technologies would receive up to $1.25m to develop and test their hardware during the project's second stage.
In the third and final phase of the project, one awardee may be asked to continue development and deliver scalable system hardware.