See a new ISS solar array roll out like a giant tongue in space


The first iROSA array is now deployed on the ISS.


The International Space Station, which has been in orbit for over 20 years, has needed a solar power upgrade for some time. It’s getting a boost thanks to the installation and deployment of a new solar array during a spacewalk over the weekend.

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency concluded a spacewalk on Sunday — the second one they’ve taken together to install the ISS Roll-Out Solar Array, known as iROSA.

“Kimbrough and Pesquet successfully unfolded the solar array, bolted it into place, and connected cables to the station’s power supply to complete deployment,” NASA said Sunday in statement.

The array is one of two that arrived on a SpaceX Crew Dragon cargo spacecraft. The plan is to send up six of the roll-out arrays in total to upgrade the station’s aging power system. 

NASA’s ISS Twitter account shared a nearly 10-minute video of the roll-out operation, which happened as the station was traveling over the US. It took about six minutes for the unfurling, which looked like a giant rug or tongue unrolling.

The iROSA array is about 60 feet (18 meters) long. You can check out NASA’s shorter clip of the array unrolling below, though it may be more fulfilling to fast-forward through the longer version.

The clever cylindrical design of the arrays makes them easy to pack into a cargo spacecraft for shipping into orbit. The current arrays have outlived their planned 15-year lifespan and “have begun to show signs of expected degradation.” The new array is positioned in front of one of the original arrays. 

Kimbrough and Pesquet’s work isn’t done. They’ll venture back outside the ISS for another spacewalk as early as this week to work on the second solar array upgrade.

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