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Discussion in 'SpaceX' started by Grendal, Jan 12, 2021.
New solar panels are coming.
NASA to upgrade space station solar arrays - SpaceNews
I wondering it hurts Boeing to see Soacex delivering these?
If they were Tesla panels- whoa, what a triumph!
"The new arrays will use a technology called Roll Out Solar Arrays (ROSA), developed by Deployable Space Systems. "
I haven't slept for 29 hours so that's my excuse for not reading the linked material properly. Thanks, Em.
FWIW DSS has been working on ROSA for a while, for use on both state funded and commercial space missions. Its pretty legit tech. Doesn't scale down as well as it scales up. For a very abstracted comparison, both ROSA and Starlink arrays mount cells onto thin substrates. (While thin substrates isn't exactly novel, typically the space industry mounts cells on more traditional honeycomb panels...there's CTE and other things folded into that logic). Starlink total solar array area is relatively small, and so SpaceX can accordion up these substrates (like traditional space solar arrays) quite efficiently. ROSA area can be significantly bigger, and DSS has decided that rolling up the substrate is most efficient, especially when requirements get into the tens of kW.
Deployable Space Systems
Somewhat tangent, but FWIW there would never be variants of Tesla terrestrial solar products on single-unit space vehicles like the ISS. While Starlink (and likely other) mega constellations dip into terrestrial technology because of the cost and production limitations of more advanced technologies, low volume space missions are, for the foreseeable future going to use more expensive, higher efficiency products.
The main roadblock in the trade is the fact that less efficient solar cells require more solar array area, and that means more mass (both in cells and array structure), which in itself requires more mass on the vehicle side to support the higher mass array during launch, all which in turn requires more mass in the control systems (bigger wheels/torquers to offset the higher inertias, more propellant and potentially bigger thrusters, etc.). All that mass translates into either more cost or a reduction in payload. The amount of money saved on the lower efficiency cells is quickly offset by additional costs and/or loss of performance/revenue when you're only talking one or maybe a few units.
There's an inflection point in unit volume where leveraging the terrestrial supply chain for solar cells becomes mission effective. [And as an aside, certainly we could assume that inflection point comes sooner for SpaceX than anyone else in the space industry] For one, the global supply of legacy space grade triple (let alone quad) junction cells is less than the demand from one mega constellation...which as you might imagine is a bit of a pickle. There's of course the cumulative savings of hundreds/thousands of units--including savings realized by higher volume production--that plays a part, and in general the mission level mass-cost equation changes a bit when you're hucking up a ton of smaller units (like Starlink) vs one big unit (like a big GEO).
Here's one of the industry players in solar: SolAero Technologies, Inc.