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Fri, Oct 10, 2008

NASA, ATK Successfully Deploy Solar Arrays For Orion

Test Provides Risk Reduction Data For NASA

NASA and Alliant Techsystems have successfully concluded initial testing and deployment of the UltraFlex solar arrays for NASA's New Millennium Program Space Technology 8 Project (NMP ST8). The project will also produce data that can support Lockheed Martin in it is effort to develop the Orion crew exploration vehicle for NASA with the goal to safely transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station, the Moon and Mars.

The fabrication and deployment testing of the full-scale functioning UltraFlex wing hardware helped NASA, Lockheed Martin and ATK engineers address Orion design questions and reduce potential risks. Areas where data will be used are manufacturing, assembly, offload, mechanism operation and performance of deployment in Earth's gravity. Additionally, the UltraFlex solar cells were exposed to environmental testing to verify the UltraFlex solar blanket performance and survivability in expected launch and on-orbit environments.

The UltraFlex disk-shaped solar arrays, which measure more than 18 feet (5.5 meters) in diameter, will provide power for Orion during its missions. The unique design provides solar power at less than half the weight of traditional rigid panel solar arrays.

"Solar array performance and weight are critical factors in the development of vehicles that will be traveling to the ISS and the moon," said Carl Marchetto, ATK Space Systems President. "The completion of these preliminary tests begins to demonstrate the critical functions and capability UltraFlex technology brings in support of the successful development of the Orion vehicle."

ATK's UltraFlex arrays feature ultra-lightweight materials that provide high strength and stiffness, as well as compact stowage volume. Smaller scale versions are currently powering NASA's Phoenix Lander that has been on Mars since May 25. Due in part to the exceptional performance of the solar arrays, the 90-day mission life of the Mars lander has been extended three times. Power from the arrays has produced more power than pre-mission predictions. The additional power has allowed the surface team to extend the amount of operating hours for the science team.

The two-part test validates the UltraFlex solar array's deployment reliability and acceleration capability -- up to 2.7G's -- as needed by NASA's Orion lunar mission. The data from the deployment and static load tests will be used in preliminary risk reduction activities focusing on the unique thermal, vacuum, and deployed loading environment the solar arrays will experience during actual missions.

ATK is under contract to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the NMP ST8. The ST8 project's mission is to validate four new subsystem-level technologies, one of which is the UltraFlex Solar Arrays.



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