The U.S. Air Force has funded a test flight of the ROSA (Roll Up Solar Array) mechanism, now scheduled for a SpaceX launch in Spring 2017 to the International Space Station, where it will be deployed in space.
ROSA is groundbreaking, a lightweight technology that rolls up and stows into a very compact volume, explains Brian Spence, president of DSS. “NASA’s investment in ROSA was important to elevate the maturity level of the technology and I am pleased to see a good return on investment of taxpayer dollars.”
The solar array rolls up around a spindle to form a compact cylinder for launch. Those solar wings are then deployed via strain energy in rolled booms that form the outer sides of the structure. A lightweight mesh material supports strings of photovoltaic cells that churn out electrical power.
What’s more is that ROSA is scalable. It can be configured and combined with other ROSAs for very high power levels, Michael Ragsdale says, Research and Development project manager at SSL.
Deployment of the innovative ROSA is straightforward, a two-stage process that takes roughly ten minutes, Ragsdale says. “It’s a simple mechanism that controls the array deployment and that increases its reliability.”
ROSA technology is key for NASA’s solar electric propulsion needs as well as robotic and human journeys to Mars and beyond. For example, excursions on Mars can benefit by deploying solar arrays, he adds, and then retract them for point-to-point travel across the rugged landscape of the Red Planet.
ROSA makes satellites much more cost-efficient. ROSA can also provide significantly more power than traditional panels because it can easily be scaled larger for more capacity. It is estimated ROSA’s technology advancements could save the Air Force’s communication and navigation programs $1.4 billion.