By Gary Thomas
ATK Space Systems and Deployable Space Systems have been chosen for contract negotiation by NASA's Space Technology Program for the development of cutting-edge solar array systems.
High-power solar electric propulsion, which is powered by sophisticated solar array systems, is an essential capability needed to extend human reach across the solar system. The selected proposals provide breakthrough methods to develop large-scale advanced solar arrays and related deployment mechanisms.
These sophisticated solar array systems will considerably minimize stowed volume and weight when compared to existing systems. They will also meaningfully enhance functionality and efficiency of future systems, which will generate power in hundreds of kilowatts. They find use in communications satellites, future NASA human exploration and science missions and other future spacecraft applications.
This solicitation comprised a competitive selection process and encompassed two acquisition phases. Under Phase 1, ATK Space Systems and Deployable Space Systems will be involved in the development of their solar array system technology in the next 18 months. Once Phase 1 is successfully completed, the two companies and other offerors who are capable of demonstrating a comparable level of technical maturity will contend for a Phase 2 award to showcase their technologies in space.
The objective of Phase 2 is to corroborate flight readiness by demonstrating a cutting-edge, modular and scalable solar array system in space. During Phase 1, ATK Space Systems and Deployable Space Systems will design, study and test an extendable solar array system that can generate over 30 kW of power. Moreover, the Phase 1 teams will determine the key technological challenges of scaling up their concept to 250 kW or higher power levels.
Phase 1 awards vary between roughly $5 million and $7 million. This solicitation was sponsored by NASA's Game Changing Development Program Office, under Phase 1. The awarded contracts will be managed by NASA's Glenn Research Center for the agency's Space Technology Program, which designs, develops, tests and flies hardware for the agency's future science and exploration missions.