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AFRL Technology Goes to the Moon


The Roll-Out Solar Array, or ROSA, developed here at the Air Force Research Laboratory will be used in the NASA [Lunar] Gateway program, which aims to land U.S. women and men on the moon by 2024.   

ROSA, developed with industry partner Deployable Space Systems, uses High Strain Composites, or HSCs, a technology area developed at the AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate here. 

The extremely thin, lightweight, yet stiff materials can undergo large deformations without failure and can store energy from that distortion, capable of deploying a system without the need for heavy motors. These characteristics make HSCs perfect for spacecraft applications, and success has caused industry to take notice.  

“The inclusion of ROSA in this mission, is a testament to the success of the solar array design, developed jointly between DSS and AFRL,” said Capt. Christopher Box, Deputy Program Manager of the Integrated Structural Systems Program. “We are excited that the technology has been transitioned to industry, so that both government and commercial users can benefit. An excellent example of that transition is the use of ROSA on the NASA Lunar Gateway mission.”

The ROSA system uses two carbon fiber HSC booms to roll out and tension a large solar array blanket. An experimental class ROSA system was successfully demonstrated on the International Space Station in 2017, with support from NASA and the Space Test Program. 

Another success story comes from three HSC booms designed by Roccor LLC., used to deploy communications antennas on three Harris Corporation satellites in late 2018. These antennas enabled radio communication demonstrations that will directly benefit future national security missions. 

With the promise shown by these composite flight systems, the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate continues to work towards more advancements in the area of HSC.