Successful Airbus/NASA solar array test


Airbus Defence and Space has developed and delivered the qualification model of the solar array for the European Service Module (ESM) of the Orion crewed spacecraft. During a deployment test today at NASA’s Plum Brook Station facility in Sandusky, Ohio, USA, the model easily passed the trial.

The tested solar array involves one qualification wing, consisting of a yoke and three panels, and three dummy wings. In the past month, the solar array was integrated with the test model of the Orion ESM, of which the series is being developed and built by Airbus Defence and Space on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA).

The solar array deployment test is part of a series of dynamic tests that the ESM will undergo in the coming months at the NASA center to prove that its design can withstand the hostile environment of an exploration flight beyond the moon.

During the Trans Lunar Injection (TLI) boost, the wing tips of the solar array are calculated to each deflect 1.06m. A camera on each wing tip, pointed at the Orion spacecraft, will closely monitor the movement. In addition to the deployment test, the test program of the qualification wing involves acoustic, vibration and shock tests, which will take place in the following months.

The flight models of the solar array are already being manufactured for a first ESM delivery at the beginning of 2017. The solar array, weighing over 260kg, comprises four wings, each consisting of three panels with 1,242 Gallium Arsenide cells per panel. The almost 15,000 cells in total will provide the Orion service module with 11.1kW for its mission.

Click here to see a video of the solar array test.

March 4, 2016

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