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Update: GPM spreads its wings in solar array deployment test

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Posted July 2, 2013
A solar array wing begins to release from the GPM Core satellite in a deployment test on Thursday, June 6, 2013. Credit: NASA Goddard/Debbie McCallum

A solar array wing begins to release from the GPM Core satellite in a deployment test on Thursday, June 6, 2013. Credit: NASA Goddard/Debbie McCallum

NASA successfully completed two pre-vibration solar array deployment tests of the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite on June 6 and June 15, 2013.

“Cross your fingers. Cross your toes,” said Art Azarbarzin, GPM project manager, as he watched engineers take their places around the GPM Core satellite, set up on its end in the middle of the clean room.

A loud hiss filled the room as engineers turned on air hoses. The hoses pumped air through tubes attached to the solar panels’ supports and out of hockey puck-shaped coasters. Azarbarzin explained that the support system and air cushion is designed to reduce friction and best mimic how the solar array would float in space.

Next, a man’s voice from the adjacent control room started to count down. Five seconds later, five loud pops sounded one after the other. The pops resulted from the triggering of Frangibolts, which discharge in small, controlled explosions to release the solar array. After the loud pops sounded, the four panels of the array started to slowly unfold like an accordion, until the wing fully extended across the floor.

The solar array panels and boom, a large support beam running across the back of the first two solar panels, locked into place. Engineers inspected the solar array front and back, closely examining the panels’ junctions and wires. After confirming the array was successfully deployed, they manually unlocked and folded the solar array back into the body of the spacecraft.

Read more at: Phys.org

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