NASA astronauts successfully deploy 1 of 2 new roll out solar arrays for space station

Part of power upgrade for International Space Station

In this image taken from NASA video, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, left, and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet work on the solar array outside the International Space Station, Sunday, June 20 2021. (NASA via AP) (Uncredited, NASA)

Two NASA astronauts successfully installed one of two new roll out solar arrays for the International Space Station after conducting a spacewalk Sunday.

The astronauts, European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet and NASA’s Shane Kimbrough, started their estimated spacewalk at 7:42 a.m., according to the agency, and ended after six hours and 28 minutes.

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The installation process began Wednesday but had several delays as the pair tried to install the first of two new ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, that arrived via SpaceX cargo delivery.

The astronauts were able to soft capture the iROSA but ended their spacewalk without rolling out the solar blanket. The array was bolted down and secured until another attempt can be made.

“The two installed the solar array into its mounting bracket during a June 16 spacewalk, but an interference associated with the array’s hinge created an alignment issue and prevented a full roll-out,” the space agency said of Sunday’s spacewalk.

The new solar arrays are essentially large blankets with more than 9,000 solar cells on each one attached to carbon composite boom arms. The massive arrays are rolled up to launch in the Dragon cargo spacecraft and then, through two spacewalks, will be installed outside the ISS.

The astronauts were able to successfully roll out the first solar array nearly four hours after beginning the spacewalk Sunday and prepared for the second solar arrays installation for a future spacewalk.

Currently, the ISS has eight solar arrays generating about 160 kilowatts of power total. It’s been more than 20 years since the first solar arrays were installed on the ISS and even with upgrades, solar cells degrade over time. The new solar arrays are much smaller --but more powerful with new technology-- and will eventually provide 120 kilowatts, or 120,000 watts, of power during the daylight hours.

About the Author:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.