An ISS solar panel with the Earth as backdrop. – NASA

Commentary

The International Space Station and Solar Power

by john hare

There is a coding contest now for programmers to find the best algorithm for pointing the International Space Station’s solar arrays to avoid shadowing the masts during parts of the orbit which causes them to shrink from the cold and possibly buckle. Given that the station is in its’ second decade now, I would think that this should have been a problem solved quite some time ago. Since there is a contest to solve that problem, it would seem that I’m wrong.

It seems to me that the basic problem is that the ISS is large and unwieldy enough to have inflicted this problem on itself. Since eventually there will be even larger and more convoluted orbital platforms depending on solar energy, it might be worth taking a look at different options for power.

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