(VitalNews.org) – The International Space Station (ISS) has been updated with new solar panels to generate extra power for its projected operational life over the next seven years. Two astronauts, Steve Bowen, and Woody Hoburg, completed a five-and-a-half-hour spacewalk to install the equipment earlier this month. The ISS Roll-Out Array (IROSA) which was deployed is lighter and more energy-efficient than the previous generation of ISS solar panels and produces 20 kilowatts of electricity over a panel that is 60 feet wide by 20 feet long. This represents a 30 percent increase in power compared to the amount that was being generated previously.
The ISS operates in low Earth orbit and is the product of cooperation between five space agencies – the United States NASA, Canada’s CSA, Europe’s ESA, Japan’s JAXA, and Russia’s Roscosmos. The ISS serves as a research laboratory where the zero gravity and space environment means that experiments can be conducted in fields such as physics, meteorology, astronomy, and astrobiology. It is also used for testing equipment which may be required for future long-haul missions to the Moon, or possibly even Mars.
The ISS completes around 15 orbits of the Earth per day, each orbit taking approximately an hour and a half. It is visible from the Earth’s surface to the naked eye and is the largest man-made object in the Solar System. The average altitude of its orbit is around 250 miles (400 kilometers). The space station is divided into two sections – the Russian Orbital Section (ROS) and the United States Orbital Section (USOS) and has been in continuous manned orbit for almost 23 years.
Over 250 astronauts – including 20 “space tourists” have visited the ISS during that time, and it is scheduled to operate in its current form until 2030 when it is expected to be decommissioned and replaced by a new space station. This will require continued international cooperation; however, the long-term plans may be affected by the war between Russia and Ukraine as the international sanctions imposed on Russia may make it difficult for it to maintain its cooperation or fulfill its obligations.
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