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NASA selects 3 companies to create lunar solar tech

by Sion Geschwindt
NASA selects 3 companies to create solar tech for the Moon

NASA has selected three companies to further advance work on deployable solar array systems that will help power the agency’s human and robotic exploration of the Moon under the Artemis programme.

Through Artemis missions, NASA aim to return humans to the Moon and establish a long-term presence near the lunar South Pole.

A reliable, sustainable power source is required to support lunar habitats, rovers, and even construction systems for future robotic and crewed missions.

To help provide this power, NASA is supporting development of vertical, solar arrays that can autonomously deploy up to 32 feet high and retract for relocation, if necessary.

The agency will award a total of $19.4m to three companies to build prototypes and perform environmental testing, with the goal of deploying one of the systems near the Moon’s South Pole close to the end of this decade.

The designs must remain stable on sloped terrain and be resistant to abrasive lunar dust, all while minimising both mass and stowed volume to aid in the system’s delivery to the lunar surface.

The contracts are part of the agency’s VSAT project, which aims to support NASA’s long-term, lunar surface operations. In 2021, NASA selected five companies to create initial designs for vertical solar array technologies.

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Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said: “These prototypes will provide promising solutions for reliable power sources on the Moon, which are key to the success of almost anything we do on the surface.

“This exciting effort plays a critical role that will quite literally help power our Artemis exploration in the uniquely challenging environment of the Moon’s South Pole.”

Chuck Taylor, Vertical Solar Array Technology (VSAT) project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, added: “We are very excited to be able to select these three teams as they all bring very different technological solutions as well as unique visions for how commercial space can support a sustained presence on the Moon.”

Image credit: NASA

Read next: Autonomous robotic construction project among those funded for NASA moon mission

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