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Fold-Out NASA Satellite Solar Array Completed Test Deployment


The National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the successful test deployment of a five-panel solar array that will power a weather satellite.


The satellite, GOES-U, is the fourth and final satellite in the GOES-R series. GOES-R is a collaboration with NASA and NOAA in which NASA builds and launches the satellite and NOAA operates it for weather event surveillance.


The satellites provide critical data for weather forecasts and warnings, detecting and monitoring environmental hazards like fire, smoke, fog, volcanic ash, and dust, and monitoring solar activity and space weather.


Lockheed Martin developed the solar array, a five-panel structure that carries 5 kW of capacity. This is equivalent to the power needed to run a home’s central air conditioning system. Each panel measures about 13 feet tall by 4.5 wide and weighs about 45 pounds.

At launch, the panels are folded together to protect them and ensure beneficial aerodynamics to reach orbit. Once in orbit, the panels will fold out on a single array wing that will rotate once per day, continuously pointing the solar cells toward the sun. During the test, engineers unfurled the five panels on railing that simulated a zero-gravity environment.


The PV cells are designed to convert enough sunlight into electricity to power the entire craft, including measurement instruments, computers, data processors, and telecommunications equipment.


The panels were manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s Littleton, Colorado facility, where the satellite was also constructed. GOES-U is scheduled for launch in April 2024.

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