NASA -National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Electrical Engineer

Problem: Determine the risks due to solar storms to the shuttle, International Space Station and crews, and make recommendations that would ensure the safety of the shuttle, ISS and crews.

How would damage to solar arrays affect the operation of the International Space Station? Do solar storms endanger solar arrays?

You will help your team to understand the power requirements of the space station. If the electrical power ever were to go out on the International Space Station, it could be tragic. Everything on the ISS needs electricity, notes Tom Kerslake, of NASA Glenn Research Center. Life Support, which keeps the air pressure, oxygen level and temperature steady, needs power. The ISS would still have oxygen if the electricity went out briefly. However, without power, the amount of carbon dioxide would build up on the station. Electricity powers the lights, communication systems, control systems and the computer systems that run the experiments. Electricity is also used for cooking.

"Every system on board requires power, and that power is obtained through the solar arrays and batteries," says Kerslake.

Your team needs to know about the solar panels, the ISS power requirements and how solar storms might affect the energy available to ISS.

Career Connection
To find out more about this career, read about three electrical engineers at NASA.
Diana Manent Calero  →
Jose Hernandez  →
Joan Higginbotham  →

Student Activities
    Electricity and Power in Space: Learn about electricity and power used on the International Space Station by participating in this online learning module. Do the pretest, read the background, do the activities and take the challenge and post-test. When you have completed this module you will know some of the basic concepts that an electrical engineer needs to know.
    Do this activity  →

    Way Cool: Learn how to make a simple battery.
    Do this activity  →

Begin Your Research
The information provided here will help you to learn about the solar panels and electrical requirements for the ISS. The information comes from a variety of professional sources, and some words may not be familiar to you. Don't hesitate to look up these words.

Solar Power Basics
    Power Sources for Spacecraft: (5-10) This series of short tutorials explains different ways of supplying power for space exploration.
    View site  →

    Solar Power Basics: (8-10) These facts about the sun are similar to the basic facts, but are a little more complicated.
    View site  →
Power for the International Space Station
    Power to ISS: (5-10) More explanation of the challenges to supplying power for the International Space Station.
    View site  →

    Loss of Solar Power: (5-10) Solar panels can be damaged by space weather. Find out more.
    View site  →

    Solar Storms Damage Satellites: (7-12) Solar storms can put some satellites at risk.
    View site  →

Advanced Study
    The Space Station's First Solar Arrays: (9-12) Press release for STS-97, the shuttle mission that installed the first solar arrays for the United States.
    View site  →

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