NASAs Developing Megawatt Solar Power Arrays for a Use with Solar Electric Propulsion

Published Date : Sep 02, 2015

NASA Glenn Research Center, GRC, presently offers several programs to progress in the future photovoltaic array development. NASA Space Technology Program selected ATK- Alliant Technical Systems in 2012 for development of a neat solar array structure and lightweight structure, under a Game Changing Technology competition.


The project proposes the design and manufacture of deployable solar arrays based on TRI 5 (technology readiness). The project is larger than the solar array blankets installed on the International Space Station (ISS). It also has an order-of-magnitude bigger than the solar array blankets. 


Moreover, earlier this year, at NASA also conducted a test of the Mega Flex at its facility in GRC Plumbrook.


ISS can generate 84 to 120KW of electricity, whereby every eight solar arrays are 39 feet wide and 112 feet long and weighs 2400 pounds. There have been space missions with astronauts working in space to install and deploy the ISS solar panels. 


With the use of high-power solar arrays, ranging from ~500 KW to many megawatts, the proposed solar-electric propulsion (SEP) mission is to provide energy to xenon-fueled engine. The planned and proposed applications of the high-power SEP technology is the mission to encounter an asteroid and travel around the lunar orbit for human exploration, which is the Asteroid Retrieval mission.    


NASA is in the pursuit of exploring options for the coming power systems in the near future. It plans to offer systems suiting different environments, including solar-electric propulsion, near-sun environments, and operation of the Venus surface. 


The deployment is achieved in three varied stages and the overall unit employs innovative spar hinge to lower the stowed volume. A single lanyard and motor operates the last two stages and EDU is 10m in diameter which is able to provide ~20KW BOL with TJ cells. 


Similarly, DSS developed ROSA, EDU that reduces the number of mechanisms and parts and employs innovative stored strain energy deployment.