On December 3 and 4, 2000, the crew of STS-97 unfurled the first permanent solar arrays on the International Space Station. The football field-sized collection of 32,800 reflective solar cells instantly made it one of the brightest objects in the night sky and the largest electrical power system (EPS) ever in space.
NASA's Lewis Research Center (now Glenn) has played a significant role in the space station from inception until today, most notably in the development of the EPS.
The EPS is essential for maintaining the station position, operating electronics, and conducting experiments. Our engineers devised a startup system for the station, developed the permanent solar array or a solar mirror EPS and integrated it into various space station designs. For the next few years, they developed a system to meet the station's ever-changing power requirements and configurations. This included design, construction, and testing of the power generation, storage, and distribution systems.
NASA Lewis also developed cathodes for the plasma contactor that prevented electrical charge buildups and nickel-hydrogen batteries that stored electrical energy for use during the eclipse period of orbit. The operation and deployment of station's radiator panels were verified at Plum Brook's Space Power Facility, and its electronics were tested at the Power Systems Facility.
Lewis led the agency's cooperative efforts with the Russians for several years. Our launch vehicle experts helped evaluate the Russian Soyuz spacecraft as a rescue vehicle. However, their analysis determined station's orbital inclination would have to be altered to accommodate Russian launch vehicles.
President Clinton ordered an overhaul of the station design in early 1993 and our experts served on the team that reconfigured the design. They also determined that the space station's orbital inclination had to be altered to accommodate Russian launch vehicles.
Construction of station began in 1999, and on November 2, 2000 NASA's William Shepherd and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko initiated a 20-year period of uninterrupted human presence on the orbiting laboratory.
Our contributions to the space station have been many. The Fluids and Combustion Facility, consisting of two modular, reconfigurable racks has furthered research on physical and biological experiments. The Combustion Integration Rack continues to be critical in fire safety research. The Fluids Integration Rack enables investigators to integrate or configure components of their experiments similar to those in ground laboratories.
NASA Glenn also introduced a new treadmill harness design for crewmembers for comfort and loading during treadmill exercise in space.
In 2010, the Space Communications and Navigation testbed was launched and installed aboard station to serve as a software-defined radio communication system able to work around unexpected hardware or system failures. The technology has evolved into a successful commercial product line for global aircraft tracking on the Iridium satellite network.
Glenn remains active in station operations by continually monitoring the power system and maintaining the overall health of the astronauts. And we are developing electric propulsion technologies -solar and nuclear-to help government and commercial customers extend the space station's life and enhance opportunities for exploration in low-earth orbit and beyond.
Top Image: The ISS with its new solar arrays deployed against darkness of space on December 2, 2000. The photograph was taken by STS-97 crew members onboard the approaching Space Shuttle Endeavour.
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Cygnus delivers slew of research programs to Space Station
Kennedy Space Center FL (SPX) Oct 28, 2020
When Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 2, 2020, it was loaded with a multitude of research and technology development investigations to be carried out onboard the orbiting laboratory. Once Cygnus berthed with the space station three days later and its contents were unloaded by the astronauts onboard, it was time to start performing some of the science that flew on Northrop Grumman's 14th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission. ... read more