Company tests solar power

Energy source could help astronauts travel solar system
Andy Ouriel
Mar 15, 2014


Solar power testing at a world-class facility in Erie County could help astronauts get to Mars and explore the universe.

A California-based private aerospace, defense and commercial products company, ATK, agreed to test its solar arrays at the NASA Plum Brook Station.

The work started earlier this month and extends into late April. Solar arrays can convert sunlight into electricity or energy needed for powering astronauts into deep space.

“The testing of the ATK array is a major milestone toward development of a new solar electric power system that will generate the high power needed for extending human presence throughout the solar system,” NASA officials stated in a release.

Severe weather forced ATK and NASA administrators, including those from Cleveland and Washington, to postpone a tour at Plum Brook this past Wednesday.

No make-up date has been announced.

NASA spokeswoman Katherine Martin answered questions about this new partnership at the Plum Brook Station:    

Q: What is the purpose of this testing?

KM: The testing will expose the array system to the unique conditions that Plum Brook can simulate.

Because this is a new, never-before-tested design for advanced solar array systems capable of collecting more energy than previous designs, it is imperative we test them before going forward with a space-ready version.

ATK is under contract to design, analyze and test a single solar array capable of generating more than 15 kilowatts of power. The Phase I teams also will demonstrate how this array can be scaled up to provide 250 kilowatts or more for future spacecraft with very high power requirements.

Q: What will this testing ultimately accomplish or strive to achieve?

KM: High power solar electric propulsion, where the power is generated with advanced solar array systems, is a key capability required for extending human presence throughout the solar system.

These advanced solar arrays will drastically reduce weight and stowed volume, meaning it takes up less room, when compared to current systems. They also will significantly improve efficiency and functionality of future systems that will produce hundreds of kilowatts of power.

These advanced solar arrays could be used in future NASA human exploration and science missions, communications, satellites and other future spacecraft applications.

Q: Where is testing occurring at the NASA Plum Brook Station and why?

KM: The Space Power Facility houses the world’s largest and most powerful space environment simulation facilities. The Space Simulation Vacuum Chamber is the world’s largest, measuring 100 feet in diameter by 122 feet high. The Reverberant Acoustic Test Facility is the world’s most powerful spacecraft acoustic test chamber.

Q: How many solar arrays are being tested?

KM: Two: ATK is testing their prototype array system at Plum Brook Station, and DSS (Deployable Space Systems) is expected to test their prototype array system later this year in California.

Q: How much does the testing at Plum Brook cost?

KM: The cost of testing the array is about $500,000. Note that this includes the use of the facility for about eight weeks and includes ‘vibro-acoustic’ testing, hot vacuum testing, cold vacuum testing, deployed dynamics testing and all instrumentation and cabling and labor to support the tests.



Re: "astronauts travel solar system,"

Dream on.

Pres. Obama killed govt. funding for U.S. manned spaceflight.

Now we pay the Russians $70.7M per flight to get our people to the ISS.


Where is that Malaysian airliner? I know YOU know!


Re: "Malaysian airliner?"

Off-topic nonsense.



Dr. Information

Its in Obama's homeland, Kenya.


CON serv ative stop crying now it is good for shareholder.


So Obama throws perfectly good money away on companies like Solyndra, but CUTS funding from programs like NASA. That's perfectly sensible in HIS world, of course, but for the rest of us? Not so much.

Solyndra failed because its technology is inadequate. It's too expensive and not efficient enough to warrant that expense. The only way companies like Solyndra will succeed is to bring down costs and ramp up efficiency. And guess who's involved with the leading edge in THAT kind of thing? Oh, gosh, surprise, surprise, it's NASA and the companies it works with.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we pay Russia (with whom we're not getting along all that well these days) to get us into LEO. And this from the country that was once able to land men on the moon. Pathetic. (And before Deertracker, Coasterfan, Big Dog, and the other Obama cheerleaders here say so, I'll unhappily note that Obama wasn't the first President to cut NASA. He's just been the most recent and by far the most careless.)


Less intrusive than the loud wind turbines.

The Big Dog's back

Whoa, whoa, whoa, I thought you right wingnuts were for less Gov spending. You know, reduce the debt.


Most of us aren't opposed to government, nor to the government spending money on what it's SUPPOSED to be doing (like national defense, for example, and border control, both of which it's been CUTTING). What the majority of us are against is WASTEFUL government spending (like giving $500 million to Solyndra) or spending on things the government shouldn't be involved in at ALL (like ponzi scheme health insurance boondoggles, confiscating reporters' notes, or collecting massive amounts of data on virtually every American citizen).

The Big Dog's back

sam, you act like Solyndra is the 1st company that ever failed with Gov subsidies.

Darwin's choice

And you act as if it's OK, it's only 500-700 million out the window.


The Big Dog's back

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you end up singing the blues.


Re: "Sometimes,"

Off-topic nonsense.


Re: "you act like Solyndra is the 1st company that ever failed with Gov subsidies,"

Good point! There are many others.

"As many as 50 Obama-backed green energy companies bankrupt or troubled"!


It's not, and we both know it. But the combination of the high dollar waste and what Solyndra was trying to do is actually singularly pertinent to this particular story. Unlike some people on these boards, I actually stick with the subject at hand.

Really are you ...

It is not what I am making. How well will solar panels work on the dark side of the moon?


They'd work just fine since the "dark side of the moon" only references the fact that we only see one side of the moon from earth. The timing of the moon's rotation keeps one face of the moon towards the earth at all times. The "dark side of the moon" has nothing to do with the idea it doesn't ever see sunlight. It does.

Stop It

There is no dark side of the moon.
There's a song in there somewhere. :)

thinkagain's picture

Here we have Marko Rodin, who is single-handedly solving mankind’s energy needs, showing his true genius.


Power/EMF? Other countries got it! Things like growing poplar, ragweed,hemp, etc, for bio-fuel + solar. NICE. Too bad America's strangle-hold on big $$ "hamstrings" advances. Tesla/JPMorgan. Rudolph Diesel & more. Big Money Got No Soul/Rush. How true!

Really are you ...

How well would the solar panels on the outside of a spacecraft hold up as they fly through all of the space junk that it will fly through that we have dropped off in outer space? Why not put a wind turbine prop on the nose of the space craft? What ever is on the outside of the spacecraft will have to be replaced unless they are heat resistant for reentery into earths atmosphere. One trip ships. If it is electrical generation NASA is looking for on that type of scale. With what I want to make, it would be inside the spacecraft. Zero emissions, harmless to the astronauts, not exposed to the environment, and as they space walk they could carry one in their backpack. Goodness, this is all I have been studying, learning, and preaching about for years now. It is not that difficult of a task with the knowledge I have aquired. Some people say no you can't do that. But I say yes you can. How are we suppose to advance our civilization, if we are stuck in the combustion of fossil fuels to move forward?

Good luck California based ATK and NASA. Hope it works out.

thinkagain's picture

” Why not put a wind turbine prop on the nose of the space craft?”

Hang in there buddy, people scoffed at my plan to achieve low earth orbit with fart power alone. It wasn’t my fault the castors on my chair melted during take-off…


Now that's humor !


Those of us who've kept up with technology (at least the layman's version of it) have heard this kind of claim made again and again. We STILL don't have any cheap, zero emission, efficient energy source. It's not that lots of people haven't tried, it's that none of them have succeeded. If you've got what you say you've got, let's see it work! You'll be rich, famous, and thanked by just about everybody but the oil companies. You DO have it...right?


Well Sam go to Rural King & purchase the "compressed wood bricks." Those items were on sale for $2.99/pack of six. That product made of cast-off wood products. On a local level I utilize used vegetable oil for dust/surface control on lot & driveway. Heavy equipment did havoc to the surface (potholes) No more! When I contacted Mr. Ommert/EPA Huron County about use for Twp. berm use (saving public $$)he stated: Okay for personal use, not public use, draws rodents. Hint: said used product takes nitrogen from soil too, causing no vegetation to grow. Got to wonder....


Really? And how do "compressed wood bricks" work aboard spacecraft or inside an astronaut's space suit? I'm not saying it's a bad product or that those who can use such things wouldn't be well served by purchasing them. It's just that it has nothing at all to do with the zero emission, etc. claims made here.


Re: "compressed wood bricks."

Nonsensical off-topic blather.

The Big Dog's back

I agree pooh. Everything you post is "Nonsensical off-topic blather".


Re: "I agree,"

And yet another example of off-topic moronic bloviation.


Old stinky troll so glad you can read. Maybe you could learn. Opps......Freudian slip! Always an also ran.


Re: "Old stinky troll,"


More off-topic lunacy from the resident twelve yr. old. :)

The Big Dog's back

LMAO kurt. He can't/won't learn.


Re: "He can't/won't learn"

Yet more off-topic mental diarrhea from my fan, lil' piddles.