Here’s a close-up of one of the ISS solar array wings. The International Space Station has eight pairs of these wings. The one in the picture has almost 33,000 solar cells and measures 115 feet when fully extended.
The wings are retractable and can be folded into a solar array “blanket box” that’s only 20 inches high and 15 feet long.
The ISS solar array wings make up the four photovoltaic modules that provide the space station with the electricity it needs to run. Together the modules produce about 246 kilowatts of energy — enough to power about 200 average-sized homes.
Half of the power obtained from the ISS solar arrays are used to charge the station’s batteries, which are used whenever the ISS isn’t in direct sunlight (about 35 minutes of every 90-minute orbit). The other half goes directly to the station’s modules and laboratories to run all machinery, propulsion, and life-support systems.
It’s amazing to think that the International Space Station was constructed entirely in space by teams of astronauts from Russia and NASA working together to achieve one of humanity’s greatest dreams: to explore the stars. It just goes to show you that there are no national borders in space, and that when we work together, we can accomplish the most incredible feats.
Take those ISS solar array wings as an example… they sure are beautiful.