- NASA is set to upgrade the solar arrays that power ISS with 6 additional arrays to ensure the total power output grows to 215 kW
- Spectrolab will provide its XTJ Prime solar cells whose structure will be prepared by DSS along with other equipment
- The new arrays will be positioned in front of the 6 arrays and these will be connected to the same power system
- NASA plans to send the arrays through SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft during 3 resupply missions starting in 2021
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will undertake an upgrade for the solar arrays that take energy from the sun to power the International Space Station (ISS) in the space. Altogether with the addition of 6 new arrays to the total 8 powering the station, total electricity generated by the arrays will increase to 215 kW once the task is complete.
The additional solar arrays will be supplied by Deployable Space Systems (DSS) as the larger version of the existing Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology. It will put together space grade XTJ Prime solar cells produced by Spectrolab, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company, into the structure of the new arrays including the canister and frame to hold the solar array blanket in place. The solar arrays will have 63-foot-by-20-foot size.
Spectrolab says it had produced the station’s original solar cells as well as solar cells tested on the prototype tested aboard the ISS in June 2017. Its owner Boeing is the prime contractor for ISS sustainment. According to NASA, it signed a modification to the ISS Vehicle Sustaining Engineering contract with Boeing to provide the 6 new arrays.
The newer arrays will be deployed in front of the current 6 arrays, connected to the same power system to augment the existing supply. NASA says each of the 6 new arrays to be deployed will generate more than 20 kW of electricity to produce 120 kW which when added to the 95 kW that the 2 remaining arrays along with partially shaded old arrays will produce a total power output of 215 kW.
The solar arrays have been operating in orbit since December 2000 even though these have a 15-year service life. Additional array pairs have been sent to the ISS thrice till now—September 2006, June 2007 and March 2009.
NASA plans to deliver the new arrays into the unpressurized trunk of the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft during 3 resupply missions starting in 2021, and these will be deployed in 2 spacewalks.
“These arrays, along with other recent upgrades to the station’s power system and data-transfer speed, will ensure that ISS remains an incubator and business model in the commercial space ecosystem for the coming decades,” said ISS Vice President and Program Manager for Boeing, John Mulholland. “Access to this unique lab will continue to pay off as researchers study the challenges of future deep-space exploration and make discoveries that improve life on Earth.”