ESA title
Rolled up solar arrays
Enabling & Support

Solar arrays can now be SWIRLed up

10/02/2020 307 views 3 likes
ESA / Enabling & Support / Space Engineering & Technology / Shaping the Future

A newly-closed activity with GSTP has built a solar array which can be rolled up like a carpet.

The state-of-the-art technology for solar arrays has always relied on rigid panels, which meant their size and transportation was limited.

Flexible solar arrays with a roll-out architecture pave the way to very high power and lightweight solar arrays. If solar arrays could be more compact, it would suit multiple satellite launchers and the high level of modularity needed to enable a solar array that might retract during a mission.

Recently, all around the world, solar arrays which can be bent and flexed in this way are being designed and tested but in Europe these technologies were not as developed, until now. 

An activity with Thales Alenia Space in France has manufactured and tested a complete mock-up of a solar array that is wound up on a spool, much like a carpet or a roll of paper.

The mock-up has already undergone several environmental tests, including vibration, to reproduce the mechanical accelerations this structure might experience during a launch.

After this test, a visual inspection and a test of the solar arrays electronics was performed and showed clearly that the solar cells and interconnectors remained undamaged.

The activity fell under GSTP’s de-risk initiative that looks at  technologies with the potential to make a substantial impact and where a short de-risk project could help define a clear way forward around critical issues.

Following this derisking phase, the flexible solar array will enter a development phase with two types of application: GEO platforms, that will be supported by the ARTES program, and exploration, servicing and observation missions that will be supported by GSTP.


400012414 closed at the end of 2019.