Eco Boeing reaches new levels of solar energy efficiency

Boeing engineers help with solar array wing and rotary joint deployments

The Atlantis astronauts successfully unfurled two sets of solar array wings today that will eventually double the amount of power that can be generated on the International Space Station. The solar arrays, which stretch some 240 feet from tip to tip, will be brought on line when the Port 6 solar array on top is folded down during the next space shuttle mission in December.

Boeing worked side-by-side with NASA and its industry team to ensure the arrays were flawlessly deployed. Engineers were able to avoid some of the problems faced during STS-97 in 2000 when the arrays had become stuck together when the silicon covering on the panels had formed a bond, which NASA called “‘stiction.” Engineers were able to over come those problems by developing new deployment procedure that let the solar arrays warm after partially deploying them and by using a high-tension mode.

Boeing engineers worked late last night to help NASA and its industry team resolve a software commanding problem that held up test and check out of a drive system needed to rotate the new arrays to keep them facing the sun as the station circles the globe.

As it turned out, the glitch was not a serious problem and after completing checkout of the solar alpha rotary joint, or SARJ, flight controllers and the Atlantis astronauts were able to deploy the solar array deployment on Thursday morning..

“It was a huge effort by the entire NASA and industry team to ensure the arrays and SAJR were successfully deployed. We were able to determine the problem with the SARJ was merely an issue of using one command versus another,” said Mark Mulqueen, Boeing ISS vehicle director. “Once we figured out it was a commanding issue, the SARJ rotated as expected during its checkout.” Mulqueen also said he was extremely proud of the Boeing team’s efforts to resolve this problem quickly without adversely affecting the packed assembly mission schedule.

For the Atlantis astronauts, a third spacewalk is on tap Friday, starting at 5:15 a.m., eastern to complete final closeouts of the new hardware and to repair two communications antenna systems on the station. Astronauts are also expected to complete several get ahead task scheduled for the next shuttle mission.

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