Over the June 17-18, 2017 weekend, NASA engineers on Earth “remotely operated the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to extract the Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) experiment from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.” This according to NASA.gov. Now, this may seem like old news. Solar power in space isn’t a new thing. Well, what’s new about it isn’t it’s function, but it’s capability. The solar panels roll out ‘like a tape measure’. The arm covered in solar panels “rolls up to form a compact cylinder for launch with significantly less mass and volume, potentially offering substantial cost savings as well as an increase in power for satellites.”
The reason this is big news is that it has implications for deep space travel. If the 7 day test of ROSA goes well, that’s good news for possible upcoming missions away from Earth’s orbit. The true intent for the development of ROSA is to “power large spacecraft using highly-efficient electric propulsion on missions to deep space including Mars and the moon.” And, THAT is exciting stuff.