Space Station Mir as seen on approach by Atlantis on STS-76. Image Credit: NASA

What Do Mir’s Solar Arrays Predict for ISS arrays?

By Christopher Paul

In 1997 the Mir Core Module had been in orbit since 1986, for a total of 11 years, 6 years longer than its design life. The United States and the Russian Federation were in the middle of an agreement to create the International Space Station. The first part of this agreement let NASA astronauts to live and work on the Mir space station alongside Russian cosmonauts. Examining the effects of the space environment on Mir was essential in planning for the construction of the ISS. To this end, NASA and ROSCOSMOS cooperated to bring back a piece of one of Mir’s solar arrays to see how it had fared in the environment of low-Earth Orbit. The array selected was one brought to Mir by the Kvant-1 module in April 1987 and installed via spacewalk on June 12 and June 16 by Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Laveykin. The array was 10.6 m long and had a total area of 24 m². It generated 2 kW of power, with an efficiency of about 12%—that is, 12% of incident light was converted into electricity.

But after ten years in space the efficiency of the solar array had dropped to nearly 5%. Since this type of array was one the Russians were planning to use on their ISS modules, NASA and ROSCOSMOS agreed to bring the array back to Earth and examine it. The EVA to retrieve the array took place on November 3, 1997, and was conducted by cosmonauts Anatoliy Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov. The array was stored in the Core Module until the Space Shuttle could return it to Earth.

Read more: What Do Mir’s Solar Arrays Predict for ISS arrays? « AmericaSpace.

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