Spacex Launches New Solar Panels To Space Station

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off Friday from Florida and launched from the International Space Station with more than 7,000 pounds of supplies, scientific equipment and other hardware, including the first two of six new solar wing extensions, to boost lab performance. 

Instead of being rolled up in tension-bound, 10-foot-wide carpets, the new arrays are mounted at an angle to the laboratory's existing solar wings and unrolled with their own interlocks and releases, using stored expansion energy to unwind carbon composite booms on both sides. "It really reduces the complexity. Andrew Rush, CEO of RedWire, the parent company that supplied the new solar wings to Boeing under a contract, said they want to deploy and not roll their feet. The company has released the retention mechanism so that the solar wings can use their own load energy. 

Spacex Launches New Solar Panels To Space Station

Spacex satellite

The new arrays will be installed for a $103 million upgrade, and total power generation will be increased by 20 to 30 percent to match the performance of the stations "original equipment when it was new. They will also complement the eight large wings, which are part of the original equipment and have been dismantled due to age. 

USRE is working with Axiom Space with a company to add modules to the International Space Station that will allow the US to have enough power for modules from other international partners to maximize space station usage. "The new solar systems give us this capability. It allows us to continue on board the science and research programs we have, " said Joel Montalbano, the program manager of the USRE space station. 

The nine Merlin engines powering the first stage of Falcon 9s ignited and throttled by 1: 29 p.m. EDT as SpaceX's 22nd cargo flew to the space station and drove up to 1.7 million pounds of thrust at 1: 29 p.m. EDT pushing the rocket off pad 39A in the Kennedy Space Center in a frenzy of brilliant exhaust fumes. The rocket accelerated as it consumed fuel and lost weight, and climbed onto a plane above the station's orbit, shooting at a trajectory tilted 51.6 degrees toward the equator. Two and a half minutes after liftoff, the booster fell back and headed for a successful landing on an offshore drone ship, resulting in SpaceX's 86th successful booster salvage and its 64th at sea. Its second stage performed a six-minute combustion to put the Dragon cargo capsule into orbit. It was the first flight of the first stage of the new Falcon 9 rocket, built by SpaceX in partnership with Northrop Grumman. 

If all goes well, the spacecraft will fly early Saturday to its docking point with the Harmony module and arrive at 5 a.m. Its pressurized cabin area, accessible only to the station's crew, is packed with about 4,300 pounds of cargo, including 750 pounds of astronaut material, more than 2,000 pounds of research equipment and materials, 760 pounds of station hardware, and 250 pounds of space equipment and computer equipment. The astronauts' supplies include fresh apples, oranges, cherries, tomatoes, onions, lemons, peppers, avocados, coffee, tea and other menu items. 

On July 16 and 20, astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet, crew members of the European Space Agency, plan to float out on two spacewalks to attach the ISS's rolling solar array, the Irosa wings, by mounting brackets at the base of most of the P6 sets of the original solar panels. Once docked to the space station's laboratory, the robotic arm will position the solar cells as they are now located at the left end of the station's main power tract. Once they are in place and connected to the circuit of the stations, the constraints that hold the arrays in their rolling configuration will be loosened and they will relax by themselves for about 10 minutes to stretch a full 60 feet before being inserted and tilted by 10 degrees from the original arrays. The solar panels are then mounted on the unpressurised trunk of the Cargo Dragons. 

The new arrays will be smaller than the original wings of the station, which stretched from top to bottom 120 feet. Rush said the new arrays are more densely packed with solar cells than the original modules and the solar cells themselves are based on a new, more efficient technology. We will be able to leverage improvements in efficiency and power generation to increase the station's performance by using arrays of the same size, "said Rush. 

The Irosa arrays were built under a NASA contract with Boeing, the prime contractor of the station and Redwing subsidiary Deployable Space Systems, using solar panels from Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab. The next two IOSA panels are to launch on a SpaceX cargo mission. The final two wings will go on the next SpaceX cargo flight. 

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