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
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