A New Way To Deploy Solar Panels In Space

©NASA

Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA)

Traditional solar panels used to power satellites can be bulky with heavy panels folded together using mechanical hinges.

An experiment that recently arrived at the International Space Station will test a new solar array design that rolls up to form a compact cylinder for launch with significantly less mass and volume, potentially offering substantial cost savings as well as an increase in power for satellites.

Smaller and lighter than traditional solar panels, the Roll-Out Solar Array, or ROSA, consists of a center wing made of a flexible material containing photovoltaic cells to convert light into electricity. On either side of the wing is a narrow arm that extends the length of the wing to provide support, called a high strain composite boom.

The booms are like split tubes made of a stiff composite material, flattened and rolled up lengthwise for launch. The array rolls or snaps open without a motor, using stored energy from the structure of the booms that is released as each boom transitions from a coil shape to a straight support arm.

Image credit: NASA Larger image

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