Dutch Space to Build Solar Cells for Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus Freighter



Dutch Space, leading space company in the Netherlands, signed a contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) for the development of solar arrays for NASA’s new cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS) to be carried out under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) project. The more than USD 35 million contract covers the design, manufacturing, assembly, integration and testing of the solar arrays for nine pressurized cargo missions to the ISS.

Dutch Space is Orbital’s prime contractor for the development of the solar arrays for the CygnusTM spacecraft, the centerpiece of Orbital’s automated cargo delivery service for NASA’s logistic support to the ISS. The initial demonstration flight in 2011 will be carried out as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) project, which provided NASA incentives to the developing commercial launch services industry. Eight operational CRS cargo delivery missions are planned as part of the CRS project, starting in late 2011.

“Orbital is pleased to once again team with Dutch Space on an important project for NASA,” said Mr. Bob Richards, Orbital’s Vice President and Cygnus Program Director. “Our successful collaboration on the Dawn interplanetary spacecraft for NASA gave us confidence that we can count on Dutch Space to support the Cygnus program.”

Dutch Space has a track record in designing and building solar arrays for ISS cargo spacecrafts. Bart Reijnen, CEO of Dutch Space: “The contract awarded by Orbital is a milestone for Dutch Space as it emphasizes that our flight-proven heritage is recognized world wide. Over the last thirty years and particularly through our contribution to the European Autonomous Transfer Vehicle ATV, we’ve gained profound knowledge of the challenging requirements to solar arrays for an ISS resupply spacecraft. We look forward to working on this prestigious American space project together with Orbital.”

Stiff arrays to secure balanced docking
The moment of berthing of the Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS requires unique solar array features in terms of stiffness and fatigue. The design of Dutch Space’s solar arrays for Cygnus is based on qualified structural and mechanical building blocks, not only meeting all safety requirements that are imposed by a manned mission such as ISS, but also combining very high stiffness with low mass. An inventively designed strut arm provides additional support and fixes the array between the first and second panel to CygnusTM . This strut increases the stiffness and limits undesirable vibrations of the solar array.

For this new project Dutch Space will work together with two American solar suppliers: ATK will provide the solar panel substrates and Emcore will deliver the photovoltaic cells. They will equip the panels with ZTJ gallium cells with the highest available efficiency and optimized for the short duration of the COTS/CRS mission. For the actual building of the arrays – the mechanical parts such as the joints between the panels, the struts and plume shields – Dutch Space interacts with Dutch suppliers such as Neways, Brandt FMI, Leuveco, Ramaer and Avek.