The International Space Station is old. It still works great and meets the needs of NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos, Japan’s JAXA and the European Space Agency, among others, but it’s definitely not as modern as it used to be. The teams responsible for maintaining the spacecraft have done a great job of keeping it up and running and filling it with new tools and instruments, but when it comes to upgrading things like the space station’s energy collection system, it means astronauts need to respond and head into space vacuum.
This was done on Sunday by NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover. A couple of scientists were laying the groundwork for what would eventually be a major upgrade for the space station’s power system, and they spent quite a bit of time hovering around the outside of the spacecraft while doing sensitive work.
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The space station has two power modes. The first is drawing energy from solar arrays, which are quite large and make up most of the spacecraft’s footprint. It can also draw energy from its massive batteries (which have recently been upgraded to newer versions of higher efficiency). Of course, these batteries can only be charged if there is excess energy from – you guessed it – solar panels.
So, you can understand why keeping the solar system in top shape is important for NASA and its partners. The current solar array is still working well, but it’s definitely not as efficient as it was ten years ago, and it’s time to upgrade. The new solar arrays will allow the space station to collect even more energy from the Sun. The total energy availability of the station is about 160 kilowatts, but the new panels will boost it to about 215 kilowatts.
“To ensure that sufficient power is maintained for NASA’s demonstration of research technology for Artemis and beyond, as well as for use and commercialization, NASA is expanding six of the space station’s eight existing energy channels with new solar arrays,” NASA said. “The new solar arrays, a larger version of Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA) technology, will be placed in front of the six current arrays.”
Another spacewalk planned for March 5 will continue work on installing the modification kit. Soichi Noguchi from the Japanese Space Research Agency will work solo on that space walk.
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