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NASA has chosen three businesses to undertake work on mobile solar array systems that would power the agency’s Artemis human and robotic study of the Moon.
NASA will send humans to the Moon via the Artemis missions and establish a protracted presence near the lunar South Pole. A dependable, long-term power source is necessary to power lunar habitats, rovers, and even future robotic and crewed missions. NASA is assisting in the creation of vertical solar panels that can automatically make use of 32 feet high and retract for repositioning if necessary.
According to Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation at NASA Headquarters in Washington in NASA’s (STMD) Space Technology Mission Directorate. “These prototypes will provide promising solutions for reliable power sources on the Moon, which are key to the success of almost anything we do on the surface,” furthermore she added “This exciting effort plays a critical role that will quite literally help power our Artemis exploration in the uniquely challenging environment of the Moon’s the South Pole.”
NASA will award a total of $19.4 million to three businesses for the development of prototypes and environmental testing, to deploy one of the systems near the Moon’s the South Pole by the end of the decade. The designs must be stable on sloped terrain and resistant to abrasive lunar dust, all while decreasing bulk and stowed volume to facilitate the delivery of the system to the lunar surface. Among the honors are:
Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: $6.2 million
Honeybee Robotics of Brooklyn, New York: $7 million
Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado: $6.2 million
Existing structures of space-rated solar array structures are intended for deployment in microgravity or on a horizontal surface. The new designs’ vertical orientation and height will aid in preventing power loss in the lunar poles, where the Sun does not rise very far over the horizon. When the Sun is low on the horizon, the Moon’s terrain can block some of its light, preventing it from reaching low-lying solar arrays. These designs enable uninterrupted light and so create more power by mounting the solar arrays on tall masts.
“We are very excited to be able to select these three teams as they all bring very different technological solutions as well as unique visions for how commercial space can support a sustained presence on the Moon,” stated Chuck Taylor, project manager of Vertical Solar Array Technology (VSAT) at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.
VSAT is guided by Langley and Game Changing Development programs of STMD in collaboration with Glenn Research Center of NASA in Cleveland. VSAT projects consist of contracts that will focus on supporting the long-term lunar surface operations of NASA. Initially, NASA started with five companies to design vertical solar array technology.