Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Camera sees giant Hughes satellite deploying its wings
Posted: Feb. 24, 2000

Photo taken by camera on board the Galaxy 11 Hughes HS 702 satellite shows solar wing as it unfolds, and solar concentrators being deployed along the third and fourth solar panels on the wing. Photo: Hughes
For the first time from space, video images have been captured of a commercial satellite unfolding its purple-hued solar wings in orbit more than 22,000 miles above Earth.

When extended, the wingspan of the satellite approximates that of a Boeing 737 jetliner.

The images of the solar wings were radioed from the first Hughes HS 702, the largest, most powerful commercial satellite ever launched. The HS 702 satellite is built by Hughes Space and Communications Company (HSC), the world's leading supplier of communications satellites.

"We are extremely proud of the success of our first HS 702, as it opens a new era in high-power commercial spacecraft," said Tig Krekel, President and Chief Executive Officer of HSC. "But even more impressive is the ingenuity of our technical team in devising a means to capture video of this technological first. It's the stuff of which history is made, and it's the stuff on which HSC is based."

Two video cameras specially modified to withstand the rigors of a rocket launch and the extreme temperature variances in space captured the 30-minute-long milestone sequence of the spacecraft's uniquely designed solar wings unfolding, panel by panel, until the satellite reached its full wingspan of 111 feet.

Black-and-white photo shows fully deployed solar wing with four panels and associated concentrators. These concentrators are innovations for the Hughes HS 702 satellite, to concentrate more of the sun's energy on the highly efficient gallium arsenide solar cells. Photo: Hughes
The HS 702 solar wings carry angled solar reflector panels along each side that concentrate more of the sun's rays onto the solar cells in order to generate increased power. The gallium arsenide solar cells are among the most efficient available, able to convert nearly 25 percent of the sun's rays into spacecraft power. The satellite, Galaxy 11, was built by HSC for PanAmSat Corporation and was launched on an Ariane rocket on Dec. 21, 1999.

The HS 702 model spacecraft was introduced in 1995 to meet customer requirements for satellites with more than 10 kilowatts of power, and with flexible payload capacity. A total of nine of these powerhouses have been ordered by such customers as PanAmSat Corporation, XM Satellite Radio, Telesat Canada, and Hughes Spaceway.

This year three more HS 702s, with power ranging up to 18 kilowatts at beginning of life, are scheduled to launch. Building on this strong foundation, HSC announced the enhanced HS 702+ spacecraft model in October 1999, designed with the industry-first ability to achieve 25 kilowatts of power.

The solar wings were designed and manufactured by Spectrolab Inc., a unit of Hughes Electronics Corporation. Spectrolab, founded in 1956, has been supplying solar cells and panels to the space industry for 40 years and is also a leading supplier of searchlights and solar simulators. Hughes Electronics Corporation acquired Spectrolab in 1975.

Hughes HS 702 compared to 737 aircraft. Photo: Hughes

HSC is the world's leading manufacturer of commercial communications satellites, having built nearly 40 percent of those in operation. It also is a major supplier of spacecraft and equipment to the U.S. government, and a builder of weather satellites for the United States and Japan.

HSC is a unit of Hughes Electronics Corporation. Hughes Electronics is the world's leading provider of digital television entertainment, and satellite and wireless systems and services. The earnings of Hughes Electronics, a unit of General Motors Corporation, are used to calculate the earnings per share attributable to the General Motors Class H common stock.

Video vault
Animation depicts the deployment of the Galaxy 11 solar arrays. The actual deployment takes about 30 minutes.
  PLAY (172k, 21sec QuickTime file)
Time-lapse video shows the deployment of one of Galaxy 11 solar arrays. The actual deployment took about 30 minutes.
  PLAY (142k, 1min 10sec QuickTime file)
Download QuickTime 4 software to view this file.

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