Don’t Rain on My Solar Arrays

I’m sitting in a conference room at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). One entire wall, specifically one of the longer walls of the rectangular room, is a window. I got myself a prime seat at the table facing the window. Clutch. Now I can look outside as I gather my thoughts during the meeting. Those of you that work in offices know how important windows are for sanity.

It’s raining outside. This is actually quite nice for me being from LA where it never rains. At JPL, I’m used to walking between buildings underneath the burning Sun. This is a nice change of pace.

As it rains outside, we discuss the Solar Arrays for the Europa Clipper Spacecraft inside. JPL and APL have teamed up for the Spacecraft design, each of us managing various parts. So, what’s the topic of discussion for the Solar Arrays today? Requirements. Good ole requirements. As Preliminary Design Review (PDR) season approaches, lower-level teams from all over the Project have to get their requirements reviewed and approved. (The higher-level teams already have baselined requirements at this phase.) With a solid set of requirements, we can all pass through this gate review to the next phase of development, the final design.

Right now our design is only preliminary. We long ago chose to use solar power over RTGs, but now we have a much more realistic Solar Array design. From the mechanical mounting to electrical interfaces, the design is maturing every day. This requirements review brings us one step closer to PDR and to building a real life Spacecraft.

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