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Lockheed Martin completes first flexible solar array for satellite

04 Oct 2017

Latest technology - for the LM 2100 orbiter - delivers 50% more power but is 30% lighter than previous space-dedicated arrays.

After several years of development, defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has completed the first flight build of its new Multi-mission Modular (MM) Solar Array.

The company says that this flexible array advances its “significant heritage” of developing and flying flexible arrays on such programs as the International Space Station and a constellation for the US Air Force.

The new design is a major component of Lockheed Martin’s multi-year modernization of its LM 2100 satellite bus, which is part of its recently-enhanced family of buses.

The MM array incorporates three key features into the satellite-based design: higher power, lower mass and more compact stowage.

The company commented that together all of these features enable satellite designers to better meet its customers’ growing power demands. In raw numbers, the MMA’s compact flexible array design delivers 50 percent more power than previous rigid array designs at a 30 percent lower mass.

“The new arrays can generate 20 kilowatts of energy in orbit, equivalent to powering an entire home. The arrays deliver enough energy for even the most advanced communications or remote sensing payloads,” said Wahid Azizpor, manufacturing director at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

“Built on an innovative flexible material, these arrays are rugged and reliable at a fraction of the weight and stowed size, which allows customers to pack more payload capability into the satellite,” he added.

Array design features

  • By swapping rigid panels for thin, flexible sheets, the upgraded design achieves reduced weight and compact stowage. Typical rigid panels range from 0.75 to 1.5 in (18 to 36 mm) thick, but the MM Array’s synthetic polymer material is just 0.002 inches (0.05 mm) thick, a significant reduction.
  • Combined with an innovative deployment mechanism, the improvements create a design that lowers cost and allows easy configuration changes for different missions. Its first customers are for LM 2100 series of satellites, but engineers can adapt the design for other types of spacecraft.
  • The MM Array incorporates the latest efficient solar cell and component technologies. Additionally, engineers designed the solar array to improve manufacturing and test, incorporating robotics and other advanced manufacturing techniques. Lockheed Martin has leveraged expertise from across Space Systems to contribute to the design.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin employs approximately 97,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

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