Space

Boeing to provide six new solar arrays for International Space Station

Boeing to provide six new sola...
The six new arrays will supplement the eight already in service
The six new arrays will supplement the eight already in service
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The six new arrays will supplement the eight already in service
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The six new arrays will supplement the eight already in service
The Spectrolab, where the solar array blankets are being assembled
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The Spectrolab, where the solar array blankets are being assembled

The International Space Station (ISS) is getting a major upgrade starting this year, as Boeing is tapped to deliver six new solar arrays. They will provide the orbital laboratory with up to 30 percent more electricity for research and commercial applications.

The ISS has been in operation for over two decades, and is slated to be decommissioned sometime between 2025 and 2030. That said, it's still being added to and upgraded, as it moves away from purely government control toward greater participation with private enterprise.

Part of this effort has involved a number of improvements, such as a universal docking port that can be used by any visiting spacecraft, and new and improved nickel-hydrogen batteries to run the station when it is in eclipse. Now, it's also getting a major addition with the new solar arrays.

The Spectrolab, where the solar array blankets are being assembled
The Spectrolab, where the solar array blankets are being assembled

Developed by Boeing's Spectrolab subsidiary, the new 63 by 20-foot (19 by 6-m) arrays are based on the company's advanced XTJ Prime family of solar cells, which provide more power than previous cells while operating at a cooler temperature for less waste heat.

When installation is complete, the half-dozen arrays will generate over 120 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to power 40 US homes. Along with the original eight arrays generating 240 kilowatts, this will mean a boost of 20 to 30 percent of available power – not only for the station's basic systems, but also for the increasing power demands of new experiments and applications.

The new arrays are being built in partnership with Deployable Space Systems of Santa Barbara, California, which is providing the structural components that include the deployment canister and the frame that will support the array as the "blankets" of solar panels are unfurled. According to Boeing, a prototype of the new arrays was tested on the ISS in 2017.

"The XTJ Prime space solar cells are much more efficient than any of their predecessors and are fit to support the cutting-edge research being done aboard the International Space Station," says Tony Mueller, president of Spectrolab.

Source: Boeing

4 comments
Derek Howe
I'd wager the ISS stays in use until 2030. But once (if?) the Starship becomes operational, the ISS will become garbage, regardless of it's solar panels. I'm hopeful we will have space stations that make this feel like a type writer next to a laptop.
Like this awesome example of what could be built in just a few years.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iwQERHgqco&lc=UgxPbbK6TbmF_hf6BSN4AaABAg.9IOgapM1Muk9IPfQqR_MuQ
WB
The space station stuff has been such a bore for decades... it's a cop out. Thank god for SpaceX who actually wants to do something exciting. The world's settling on mediocracy doing stuff we've done half a century ago is just lame. I think the space station should be de orbited and we should focus on new frontiers.. make a moon base..
Eddy
The unfurling was a bit of a mission when the shuttle delivered the originals I remember, hope these go well without someone having to do a whipcrack on them.
buzzclick
Having a space station up there has been an indispensable part of the the efforts to understand living in space and all that entails. I would imagine that the majority of the kilowatts consumed up there is to keep the crews toasty and warm. Come what may, all the significant data gleaned from it are a valuable contribution to eventually escape from the inevitable degradation of our terrestrial existence. Exit stage left.