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See NASA's flexible solar array all rolled out in space

NASA literally rolls out a compact experimental solar array in space that could one day power satellites and spacecraft.

NASA tests the ROSA system on the International Space Station.

NASA

Most satellites rely on chunky solar arrays akin to the large rigid panels we use on Earth to provide power to homes and businesses. NASA is looking ahead to the future of solar power in space with a test of its experimental ROSA (Roll Out Solar Array) design. NASA likens the unfurling, flexible nature of ROSA to a tape measure or one of those party favors you blow into.

"This new solar array's design 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," says NASA. Arms on either size of ROSA extend as it rolls out.

NASA shared a photo on Tuesday of the ROSA array unrolled and attached to a mechanical arm on the International Space Station after its deployment on Sunday. 

The experiment is scheduled to last for seven days with the aim of seeing how the system responds to microgravity, extreme temperatures and the rigors of a spacecraft's movements.

NASA also released a sped-up video on Monday showing the array's deployment from the space station arm. It looks a lot like a scroll unfurling and you can see the photovoltaic cells wiggling during the process. This is the first test of ROSA in space.

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