NASA reveals off new photo voltaic panels for the ISS
The ISS has been in orbit above Earth for decades. The power supply for the space station and the experiments on board is provided by four pairs of solar systems that are designed for a service life of 15 years. These solar arrays have been in continuous operation since the first pair was deployed in December 2000. Additional pairs of arrays were shipped in September 2006, June 2007, and March 2009.
The first pair of solar systems has been supplying power to the ISS for more than 20 years. NASA says that while the solar array is performing well, the current panels are showing signs of deterioration. To ensure that enough power is retained for operation, NASA has announced that it will expand six of the space station’s eight existing power channels with new solar systems.
Boeing is the main contractor for the operation of space stations, its subsidiary Spectrolab and the main supplier Deployable Space Systems will provide the new arrays. By combining the original eight, larger arrays and the smaller, more efficient new arrays, the power generation of each expanded array is restored to approximately the same amount as when the original arrays were first installed. This corresponds to an increase in performance of 20 to 30 percent for research and operation of space stations.
The new solar arrays are a larger version of the roll-out solar array technology that was successfully demonstrated during a test on the space station in June 2017. The new solar arrays will be placed in front of the six current arrays and will use the existing sun tracking, energy distribution and channeling. NASA notes that the new arrays will shade a little over half the length of the existing arrays and will be plugged into the same power system to expand the existing supply. The current arrays that power the ISS can generate up to 160 kilowatts of electricity during the day.
About half of this energy is stored in the station’s batteries when the station is not in sunlight. The new arrays will produce more than 20 kilowatts of electricity and provide a total of 120 kilowatts more power during the day. The remaining uncovered solar field and the partially uncovered original arrangements will continue to generate approximately 95 kilowatts of electricity for a total of up to 215 kilowatts. Starting this year, the solar systems will be delivered to the ISS in pairs using the pressureless trunk of the SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle. Installation requires two space walks.