The International Space Station (ISS) has been orbiting Earth for the past 20 years. It revolves around the planet at an average speed of 17,227 miles per hour. ISS serves as a laboratory where astronauts perform scientific experiments in microgravity for researchers all over the world. This research has enabled engineers and medical experts to develop cutting-edge technology and treatments for humanity.
The Space Station is powered by eight gigantic solar panels that absorb large amounts of the Sun’s energy. These solar arrays are comprised of cells that convert energy to electricity. The solar cells are made from purified chunks of the element silicon, which can directly convert light to electricity using a process called photovoltaics. The sets of arrays together are capable of generating 120 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to provide power to 40 homes.
ISS’s solar arrays have been in operation for nearly two decades, NASA announced on January 11 that it plans to upgrade the Station’s solar arrays to ensure the orbiting laboratory has enough power for at least a decade. NASA said in a press release it will launch the first pair of upgraded solar arrays to the station later this year aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, launched by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. The solar arrays will be transported inside the spacecraft’s unpressurized trunk, at the bottom. Two more pairs of solar arrays will be launched on future cargo missions, the agency did not provide further information of when each would be deployed.
“Though they [solar panels] are functioning well, the current solar arrays are showing signs of degradation, as expected. To ensure a sufficient power supply is maintained for NASA’s exploration technology demonstrations for Artemis and beyond as well as utilization and commercialization, NASA will be augmenting six of the eight existing power channels of the space station with new solar arrays,” the agency said on Monday. These six panels are under development by Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab and supplier Deployable Space Systems, pictured below. Each solar array will require two astronaut spacewalks to be installed.
Image Source: Deployable Space Systems
Making power moves.— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) January 11, 2021
A new set of Boeing-built solar arrays will help power @Space_Station to keep cutting-edge orbital research capabilities and commercial opportunities going for years to come.
Release: https://t.co/44imE229YO pic.twitter.com/SYetvKQRdZ
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.