It is not a piece of cake to send things up to space. We will have to consider many factors like size, cost and weight. So, researchers now are opting for advanced origami which will be helpful in folding solar arrays. And, they have been working on this for about two years. The result of this hard work is a solar array of diameter 8.9 feet when folded. But, it accounts up to a massive eighty two feet when it is unfurled. Now, that is really awesome isn’t it? You can view the 1/20th scale model of the array here.
This great work was done by Shannon Zirbel and Professor Larrry Howell of Brigham Young University, and mechanical engineer Brian Trease of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. And, it wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of the renowned origami expert Robert Lang. But the team faced quite a few problems when building these arrays. One of them was that these arrays are not as thin as paper to be folded. “You have to rethink a lot of that design in order to accommodate the thickness that starts to accumulate with each bend,” Trease said in an interview.
Solar arrays already include some techniques which make it easy to get them up to space. But, it also has a novel circular design which allows for more surface area in less space. It can be wrapped around the satellite for launch, and it can be deployed without any help of an astronaut! Well, I know what you’re thinking! It’s not only for big ones! It can be used with mini satellites too! Although the project is still in prototype phase, a lot of work is being done on it to make it a reality.