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Administrator Bolden Visits Company Rolling Out New Solar Array Technology
July 1, 2014

[image-51][image-78]NASA Administrator Charles Bolden got a firsthand look at work being done on high power Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA) during a visit to the Deployable Space Systems' (DSS) facility in Goleta, Calif. on Tuesday, July 1.

Bolden and DSS President Brian Spence toured the facility where the advanced large solar array system is being developed. The testing of the DSS array is a major milestone toward development of a new solar electric power system that will generate the high power needed for extending human presence throughout the solar system.

"I am very impressed with this new technology, and I look forward to seeing this type of new solar array fly soon," said Dr. James Reuther, NASA's deputy associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The DSS ROSA deployable array features an innovative "roll out" design which uses composite booms to serve as both the primary structural element and the deployment actuator – eliminating the need for motors.

"These new solar arrays will not only enable new NASA missions, but they offer the promise of reducing the cost of commercial satellites so we expect this investment will have significant payoff for U.S. industry," says Dr. James Free, director of NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. NASA Glenn manages this technology development activity for the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate.

The ROSA engineering development unit is sized to provide nominally 20 kW of electrical power per array – enough for exciting new missions such as redirecting an asteroid to lunar orbit to enable in-depth studies by astronauts and commercial venturers.  

The solar array is configured for launch stows into a cylindrical volume less than two feet in diameter. Once the spacecraft is positioned, the arrays roll out to their full size, 20 feet by 45 feet. The very large solar array is able to be stowed so compactly because its solar cells are mounted on an innovative flexible blanket which is much thinner than the traditional rigid panels in current use.

The ROSA arrays are now ready to be qualified for missions needing more than twice the power currently available on state-of-the-art commercial satellites. This enables new opportunities for NASA robotic missions such as those planned for the outer planets; provides a new means to augment the power on the International Space Station; and opens up a new commercial market for telecommunications satellite providers. 

In addition, these arrays can scale up to very high power levels to enable cost effective transportation of crew and cargo to Mars. To achieve the very high power levels needed for these future missions, several of the newly-developed rectangular solar arrays would be mounted onto an articulated "backbone" structure as shown in the figure below to multiply the amount of power available up to several hundred kilowatts.

NASA selected DSS and ATK, also of Goleta, in 2012 to develop advanced solar systems to support advanced solar electric propulsion. After testing, both companies may compete for NASA funding to test their arrays in the harsh environment of space.

DSS is a small business founded in 2008 and is the recipient of multiple NASA and Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research awards. DSS specializes in deployable structural and mechanical systems, including solar arrays, blankets, tight panel assemblies, launch restraining release systems, mechanisms and actuators.

NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate funds the development of the new advanced solar arrays. The directorate is innovating, developing, testing, and flying hardware for use in NASA's future missions. Over the next 18 months, the directorate will make significant new investments to address several high-priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration.

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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden touring ROSA during his visit to the Deployable Space Systems facility.
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Page Last Updated: July 7th, 2014
Page Editor: Loura Hall