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NASA to modify solar arrays for the space stations

NASA will begin improving the International Space Station’s solar arrays this year to guarantee that the station has adequate electricity to remain working at least until the end of the current decade. The agency reported on January 11 that it would launch the first set of updated solar arrays on the SpaceX Dragon cargo spaceship, housed in the unpressurized trunk portion of the spacecraft, to station scheduled later this year. Two other sets of arrays would fly on subsequent Dragon cargo missions, but NASA Agency did not announce a timeline for them. The arrays will be mounted on top of six out of the station’s eight current solar arrays.

Using so enables the entire arrays to be using existing arrays’ monitoring and power delivery systems, reducing the number of new devices required. In order to plan the position where arrays will be mounted, and to do the implementation itself, every array will need two spacewalks. This installation implies that the existing arrays, occupying a little more than half of every array, will slightly shadow the existing ones. However, by shielding the old arrays, the current arrays are more effective; generating more power than what would be lost.

NASA predicts that 215 kilowatts of power will be produced by the total power system if all 6 additional arrays are built, relative to 160 kilowatts associated with the current arrays. A technique named Roll-Out Solar Arrays (ROSA), created by the Deployable Space Systems will be used in the latest arrays. In a canister, the solar arrays are folded and either unfurled or stretched out, while in space. In 2017, the ROSA system was evaluated on the ISS and has now been integrated into other spacecraft, like NASA’s lunar gateway Power and Propulsion Element.

From the year 2000 to 2009, NASA built the current set of 8 arrays on space missions. As anticipated, the efficiency of the arrays is steadily deteriorating. The ISS Advisory Committee described the deterioration in the year 2018 as one concern for ISS’s long-term future. NASA is officially approved to service the ISS by 2024. Still, many proposals have been made in Congress to explicitly allow operations to be expanded by the end of the current decade.

The Agency aims to transition to the commercial space stations ultimately. Still, a lack of funds has slowed its low Earth orbit modernization program, including only $17 million in the financial year 2021 relative to its $150 million proposals. Boeing, the main contractor of NASA’s ISS, is hopeful that the station will run with new solar panels for coming years, as well as many other projects on its power grid and improvements to its communications program to expand its bandwidth.