Boeing to Provide Six New Solar Arrays for NASA's ISS Research

The arrays will supply extra electrical power to the ISS for research purposes.
Fabienne Lang

In order for the International Space Station (ISS) to keep growing its research capabilities as well as its commercial opportunities, it needs power. That power is generated thanks to four pairs of large solar arrays that soak up the sun's energy. 

As a vital part of NASA's missions in space, the ISS needs reliable and strong power. 

That's why it's chosen Boeing to provide the next six solar arrays for the ISS, which will start being sent up to the station in 2021 aboard SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft.

The news was officially announced by Boeing and NASA on Monday.


For a little background information, the ISS's current solar arrays were designed for a 15-year life span. These were delivered in intervals in 2000, 2006, 2007, and 2009, and have been working continuously to provide electrical power to the ISS since their deployment. 

By putting two and two together, it's easy to know the first set of arrays has been working for more than 15 years. 

As NASA pointed out, this first set of arrays still works well but is showing signs of slowing down and degradation. Something to be expected after more than 20 years in service.

With many exciting upcoming missions and research planned, NASA's need for strong power on the ISS is paramount. This is where Boeing steps in, NASA's prime contractor for space station operations.

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Boeing to Provide Six New Solar Arrays for NASA's ISS Research
Comparison of people next to one solar array. Source: Deployable Space Systems/NASA

Boeing will provide the new arrays to restore "the power generation of each augmented array to approximately the amount generated when the original arrays were first installed," as NASA explained.

Starting off with six new arrays, these will be placed in front of the six current arrays and will use existing sun tracking, power distribution, and control mechanisms. These will provide the ISS with enough power to carry on regular operations.

Boeing's new solar arrays are capable of providing over 20 kilowatts of electricity, eventually giving more than 120 kilowatts of augmented power during orbital daytime, as NASA wrote. Installing each array will require two spacewalks, one that will prepare the worksite, and another for the installation.

Delivered in pairs, Boeing will send the solar arrays to the ISS via SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft over three resupply missions starting in 2021. 

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