NASA is aiming to create foldable solar structures that the agency plans to one day bring into space. To make this a possibility, the agency has joined forces with origami expert, Robert Lang. If everything goes according to plan, NASA could one day have a solar array that is capable of folding up to 8.9-feet in diameter.
What's more interesting about this approach, is how this 8.9 feet device could unfold into a solar array measuring a whopping 82 feet. To prove that this idea is not just hot air, the team built a prototype in the size of a tablet, and it is capable of unfolding up to 4 feet wide. NASA created this prototype by combining several different varieties of origami folds.
Why would NASA want to create a foldable solar array?
Well, these days NASA can't just go around throwing away cash as it used to, so the agency must improvise. A foldable solar array means that NASA won't have to create a bigger rocket to bring it into space. This origami solar array could be packed up in a small package for launch, then opened wide once it is released into the depth of space.
"This is a unique crossover of art and culture and technology," says Brian Trease, a mechanical engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.
Trease believes this type of solar array could be deployed into space via a spacecraft that is as small as a CubeSat.
Interestingly enough, these origami solar arrays may not be used just to power satellites or tiny spacecraft as NASA has grander ambitions. The Space agency is considering the possibility of using this origami made solar array to beam energy from space back to Earth. It would be like a power plant in space, but there's no certainty if such a task is plausible.
This isn't the first time we've heard about plans to use origami to build solar arrays. However, with NASA backing the project, it might very well happen this time around.
We like the idea of a power plant in space. It is time for us humans to take full advantage of the amount of radiation released by sun for our own benefit.