Masters of Space: NASA astronauts upgrade ISS with new solar arrays

Last weekend, two astronauts made a spacewalk, going outside the International Space Station (ISS) to install a new solar array as part of a long-term plan to modernize the power system of the station. NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren “Woody” Hoburg spent just over six hours outside the station, completing all their tasks as part of the spacewalk.

NASA astronauts spent just over six hours outside the ISS. Photo: NASA

Bowen and Hoburg were installing a new solar array called IROSA (International Space Station Roll-Out Solar Array) on the power channel 1A of the station. This is one of six IROSA that have been installed on the ISS for several years to modernize the panels that supply the station with power. Some old solar panels are almost 20 years old. Initially, they were designed only for 15 years of operation, but their modernization began only in 2021.

In six hours, the duo of astronauts installed a new array of new solar panels on the ISS, and also prepared channel 1B for the installation of the sixth and last IROSA, which would be installed during the next spacewalk on June 15. 

Old solar panels become less efficient over time, but they still provide a certain amount of power, so they will not be completely dismantled. Instead, the new IROSA will be placed on top of the old arrays with a slight offset. The new arrays are much smaller than the old ones, 18 by 6 meters, compared to the old 34 by 11 meters. But thanks to the improved efficiency of the technology, they provide the same power as the old ones, even with a smaller size. After the installation is completed, the station will be able to generate energy from both new arrays and parts of old arrays that go beyond them. The new panels, after a complete modernization, should increase the power of the ISS by 30%.

Earlier we reported on how the astronauts’ spacewalk was postponed due to Russian garbage.

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