New NASA Solar Array Unrolls Like Rug

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Thursday will see another shipment of supplies and experimental equipment being sent to the International Space Station. One of the experiments being sent to the station in SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), a new solar array scheduled to receive its first test to determine its performance with outer space. ROSA will arrive on the ISS Sunday.

ROSA was conceived of as a new way to deploy solar arrays in space. ROSA’s solar panels will stretch out via a boom, unrolling themselves like a rug, as opposed to the traditional accordion-style unfolding on current satellites and spacecraft. ROSA’s compact nature means that spacecraft may become smaller and cheaper, according to the device’s creators at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Every item sent to space is expensive, so if ROSA can indeed cut down on the mass and size of objects being sent to space, savings will follow.

Seven days of testing on the ISS will help the researchers determine how the system functions, deploying and retracting the solar panels in the extreme temperatures and vacuum of low Earth orbit. Sensors and cameras will record the test, and let the researchers monitor the device’s strength and durability.