New solar panels for the ISS unfurled; station now at full power

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Full power!

The International Space Station unfurled its last set of solar wings Friday, boosting the orbiting laboratory up to full power after more than 10 years of construction.

Astronauts aboard the station and docked shuttle Discovery kept all eyes on the two expansive solar arrays as they were remotely deployed from a console inside the orbiting lab. After just over two hours of work, Discovery skipper Lee Archambault radioed Mission Control that both wings were fully extended and looking good.

"Tremendous news! Great work guys," Mission Control called back. "You've got a whole bunch of happy people down here as well."

"We're very happy as well," Archambault said. "Full power!"

Each of the new 115-foot (35-meter) wings unfolded gracefully, with none of the potentially damaging glitches that have plagued past array deployments. Astronauts unfolded new arrays in stages, allowing them to warm in the sun to reduce the stickiness.

This went much better than last time, when somehow the solar array got caught on a wire and it took some effort to fix the problem. There's an image of the solar panels on the article, but suffice to say it'll look like this:

but with the extra part on the right side, making the station symmetrical.

Also note that from now on the ISS will have a permanent crew of six instead of three, which is going to be pretty interesting psychologically. Now we can start to form cliques. And the most popular astronaut, and the least popular. Who will take Lieutenant Broccoli's role?


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