Unrolling The Filmy Materials Of Space Tech
ROSA, a new solar array technology from NASA, is a lightweight mesh material that can be rolled up around a spindle and stowed in a more compact cylinder form.
(Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) experiment is seen deployed)
This past weekend, engineers on the ground remotely rolled out the solar array using the space station's Canadarm2. The array will remain attached to the robotic arm for seven days. This experiment will test the overall effectiveness of the advanced solar wing. ROSA was delivered to the orbiting lab on June 5 aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship.
"We want to show that we can pull the wing back in in a predictable way," Jeremy Banik, the experiment's principal investigator and a senior research engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, said in a statement. "A practical reason is that we have to pull it back for stowage after this investigation, but it will be good to know it can be done for future applications, potentially for a highly maneuverable spacecraft."
"We get more power by using larger solar arrays. But efficiently packaging them for launch and then deploying those big arrays by a spacecraft has been the challenge," Al Tadros, SSL vice president of Civil and Department of Defense Business, said in a June 8 statement. "What the work on ROSA has done is develop a technique to deploy very large surface areas of flexible solar arrays, doing that efficiently with low risk. It's more power without increasing the mass dramatically."
In his excellent short story Sail 25, Jack Vance describes the process of unfurling a delicate film in space, in this case, a solar sail:
Around the hull swung the gleaming hoop, and now the carrier brought up the sail, a great roll of darkly shining stuff. When unfolded and unrolled, and unfolded many times more, it became a tough, gleaming film, flimsy as gold leaf. Unfolded to its fullest extent it was a shimmering disk, already rippling and bulging to the light of the sun. The cadets fitted the film to the hoop, stretched it taut as a drumhead, cemented it in place...
(Read much more about the Light Sail)
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