International Space Station receives solar power upgrade


After three spacewalks, astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough completed the installation of new solar panels outside the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) is a lightweight solar system that takes advantage of the existing sun tracking, power distribution, and channelization tediously brought by the Space Shuttle between 2000 and 2009. 

The iROSA system was transported by the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, before being taken to its definitive position by the Canadarm2 robotic arm. From there, the device was installed by the two astronauts. 

Initially planned to take only two EVA missions, the work eventually needed three spacewalks on June 16, 20, and 25, 2021. The delay was mainly due to a malfunction of Kimbrough’s EVA suit, as the lights and camera fitted on his helmet came partly undone during the second day of work. Much like a sail, the iROSA system eventually unfolded on top of the old solar panels and now partly covers them.

While shorter (19 meters long against 35 meters for the original system), the new solar panels will eventually provide a 34% upgrade in energy generation (from 160 to 215 kW) by working in tandem with the original system. Four more arrays will be launched to ISS and installed over the next two years.


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