For upcoming Lunar-surface missions that require autonomous vertically deploying, efficient, robust, and retractable solar arrays near the south pole, Origami-Based Extendable Lunar Innovative Solar Column (OBELISC) is a simple packaging, deployment, and scalable architecture for a non-rotating column solar array. Featuring single-axis vertical deployment and retraction, OBELISC is a low-maintenance, robust design leading to long life and multiple retractions for relocation or service. Unlike a rotating flat array, OBELISC’s design boasts a 360-degree view with no need for a vertical axis gimble. The enclosed internal mechanisms are protected from lunar dust by the blanket array and reduction in complexity (and therefore the number of failure points) increases OBELISC’s service life and reliability.
The system consists mainly of the folding blanket array and the support structure. The architecture uses an identical trapezoidal facet repeated throughout the entire array, with each side of the column folding compactly in a z-folded manner. The trapezoidal facets are populated with PV cells and the triangular facets are left unpopulated but are retained for two purposes: control the folding and unfolding of the PV panels and act as the first line of defense against dust for the enclosed mechanisms.
The OBELISC architecture is tailorable in stowed inner and outer diameters, number of sides, and number of bays. The outer diameter variability allows for convenient integration onto common lunar lander designs and within launch fairings. The inner diameter variability allows for the central support structure to be housed within the central volume. The variability of the number of sides allows for optimal design of panels versus the performance of the solar array. The variability in the number of bays increases or decreases the deployed height of the column, allowing for a tractable way to tailor the deployed area without changing the rest of the geometry.
OBELISC will benefit NASA initial manned and unmanned missions to the lunar surface. These missions could use large photovoltaic solar arrays to generate power for habitats, ISRU, science investigations, and battery charging. The proposed technology could also impact a broad array of NASA missions, such as NASA’s needs for large deployable and retractable solar arrays for solar electric propulsion and hybrid propulsion schemes or for powering lunar and planetary tug spacecraft.
OBELISC will benefit the DoD, prime contractors, and commercial spacecraft providers that are interested in large solar arrays. Specific examples include providers that endorse OBELISC development (Astrobotic and Firefly), and others such as Air Force, Army, SpaceX, and Northrup Grumman. OBELISC has Earth terrestrial applications for military, industrial operations, and temporary dwellings.