A new roll-out solar array was recently brought to the International Space Station by a SpaceX cargo ship. On Saturday, NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Frank Rubio embarked on a seven-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station to install and deploy the new solar array.
The astronauts exited the Quest airlock of the space station and walked to the starboard, also known as the right side of the solar power truss of the laboratory. Following their removal from the hold of a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule earlier this week, two new ISS Roll-Out Solar Array, or iROSA, components were installed on the space station by the robotic arm of the station. On November 27, the solar arrays were among the many supplies and experiments that were brought to the space station by the Dragon cargo spacecraft.
The new solar array sheets were wound around spools before being put into a support frame on the starboard 4 (S4) part of the space station’s power truss. This piece is longer than a football field when measured from one end to the other.
Installing the solar array
In the beginning, the astronauts labored to detach one of the two recently arrived iROSA units from its container by loosening bolts and launching shackles. Cassada assumed his position on a foot restraint at the end of the robotic arm that was developed in Canada. He gripped the solar array bundles by hand as the arm brought him to the S4 truss of the space station.
The iROSA device was attached by the two spacewalkers to a mounting bracket that had been installed during an earlier spacewalk. They unfurled the iROSA unit on its hinge, and after that, they placed bolts to hold it in its new position. Cassada and Rubio successfully matched electrical connectors in order to connect the newly installed iROSA unit to the electrical system of the space station. Then, they installed a Y cable in order to connect the power generated by the newly installed roll-out solar array as well as the old S4 solar panel to the power grid that serves the laboratory.
The attachment bracket connects the new arrays to the station’s power lines and rotary joints, which are responsible for keeping the solar wings directed at the sun while the spaceship travels at a speed of more than 17,000 miles per hour around the Earth.
The International Space Station is equipped with eight power channels, each of which is supplied with electrical power produced by a solar array wing that extends from the truss backbone of the station. The new solar array that was deployed on Saturday will be responsible for supplying the 3A power line on the space station with electricity.
The first solar panels were used on four different space shuttle missions between the years 2000 and 2009. The effectiveness of the station’s original solar arrays has, as was to be expected, decreased over the course of time. At a total cost of $103 million, NASA is in the process of modernizing the power system of the International Space Station by installing new roll-out solar arrays. These arrays will partially cover six of the station’s eight original solar panels.
When all six iROSA units have been installed on the space station, the power network will be able to generate 215 kilowatts of electricity. This amount of power will be sufficient to maintain science operations for at least another ten years. Additionally, the upgrade will provide room for brand-new commercial modules that are scheduled to be sent to the space station.
The very first set of new roll-out solar arrays was sent to the International Space Station in 2017, and they were put over the station’s oldest batch of original solar panels on the P6 truss segment. This part can be found at the very left end of the power truss of the outpost. Next year, SpaceX is planning to send two additional iROSA devices into space as part of a resupply trip. Boeing, Redwire, and a group of subcontractors were responsible for providing NASA with the new solar arrays.
The clamps that were holding the roll-out solar array spooled in its initial configuration were removed by the astronauts once the new iROSA unit had been mechanically and electrically integrated into the station’s S4 truss. Because of this, the solar blankets were able to progressively unroll by utilizing the strain energy stored in the composite booms that supported the blankets. Because of the way the deployment mechanism is designed, there is no longer a requirement for using motors to move the solar array.
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