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Press Release 95-13

[Multimedia information about Lewis' Solar Dynamics work is available online.]

Lori J. Rachul
(Bus: 216/433-8806)


CLEVELAND, OH -- NASA Lewis Research Center's Solar Dynamic Ground Test Demonstration Project concluded the first successful test of a complete solar dynamic power system that may one day have applications in space stations, communications and Earth- observing satellites, and electric propulsion.

On Feb. 17, 1995, this fully-integrated solar dynamic power system produced the designed 2kWe of power in Lewis' large space simulation vacuum chamber.

Lewis has been collaborating with industry in space power systems to design, fabricate and test a solar dynamic power system that is capable of storing energy to ensure continuous operation. Researchers have found that solar dynamic power with thermal energy storage can provide significant savings in life cycle costs and launch mass when compared to conventional photovoltaic power systems with battery storage for providing continuous electric power for near-Earth orbits. These life cycle cost savings make solar dynamics more attractive for future applications, such as the International Space Station Alpha.

"The Ground Test Demonstration is the first known solar dynamic system test conducted in a relevant environment with simulated sun," explained Richard Shaltens, manager of the Solar Dynamic Ground Test Demonstration Project. "In our collaborative efforts with industry we've demonstrated solar dynamic technologies in a system context while keeping the project ahead of schedule and within budget."

During testing of the power system, a large reflective surface, known as a concentrator, focuses simulated sunlight onto a receiver to heat the working gas, which is a helium-xenon mixture. The resulting energy powers a turboalternatorcompressor (TAC) providing electric power for various orbit operations. Radiators then release waste heat from the TAC into space.

A salt storage material contained in the receiver captures the Sun's energy and provides the stored energy to the system throughout the sun/shade orbit. The storage material absorbs and returns the energy by melting and freezing, thereby providing the heat at a constant temperature throughout the complete orbit.

Working in partnership with industry, Lewis is responsible for the overall project management of the solar dynamic space power system. The industry team led by AlliedSignal Aerospace, Tempe, Ariz., includes Harris Corporation, Melbourne, Fla.; AlliedSignal Aerospace, Torrance, Calif.; LORAL Vought Systems, Dallas, Texas; Rockwell International Company, Rocketdyne Division, Canoga Park, Calif.; Aerospace Design & Development, Niwot, Colo.; and Solar Kinetics Incorporated, Dallas, Texas, who initially received funding for this project through the NASA Small Business Innovation Research Program.

"This testing has yielded an improved understanding of integrated solar dynamic system operation and performance and is providing valuable data to the joint U.S./Russian Solar Dynamic Flight System, which Lewis is currently managing," Shaltens added.

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