International Space Station Has a Major Upgrade Task Coming
If you’ve ever seen the International Space Station (ISS) soaring overhead 250 miles above Earth, you probably know that its bright appearance is due to the sun reflecting off its four pairs of solar panels.
The first astronauts housed in 2000 were installed that same year, followed by three more pairs in 2006, 2007, and 2009.
But the panels are now getting a bit old and losing their effectiveness. So NASA plans to add new ones starting this year.
The incoming arrays are provided by Boeing (NASA’s prime contractor for space station operations), its subsidiary Spectrolab, and prime supplier Deployable Space Systems.
“By combining the eight original, larger arrays and the smaller, more efficient new arrays, the power generation of each expanded array is set back to roughly what it was when the original arrays were first installed, which is a 20% to 30% increase Power for research and operation of space stations, ”NASA said this week.
The new arrays, which will be positioned in front of six of the current arrays, will be connected to the same power system to improve the existing supply. Once all have been added, the setup looks like this:
Starting this year, they will be delivered in pairs in the pressureless trunk of SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft in three separate replenishment missions to the space station.
“Installing each solar array requires two spacewalks,” said the space agency. “One to prepare the construction site with a modification kit and another to install the new solar array.”
NASA remains committed to using the revolving lab to test advanced technology for the upcoming Artemis missions, as well as human exploration of space and a future mission to Mars. She is committed to keeping the ISS fully functional until at least 2028. Arrays are helping the agency achieve that goal.
To learn more about everyday life on the ISS, check out these videos astronauts have made over the years while on the modular station. If you’ve never seen it pass overhead, this article has everything you need to know about spotting the sky – no binoculars or telescope required!