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NASA news item NASA’s Psyche Gets Huge Solar Arrays for Trip to Metal-Rich Asteroid

At 800 square feet (75 square meters), the five-panel, cross-shaped solar arrays are the largest ever installed at JPL, which has built many spacecraft over the decades.

Question: What was/is the largest solar panel (by area) deployed anywhere in space?

"Bonus points:" If possible, are there separate records for

  1. below GEO
  2. GEO
  3. above GEO (including cis-lunar and deep space)

Related, though by power and not area:


PIA25135 One of two solar arrays on NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is successfully deployed in JPL’s storied High Bay 2 clean room. The twin arrays will power the spacecraft and its science instruments during a mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of two solar arrays on NASA’s Psyche spacecraft is successfully deployed in JPL’s storied High Bay 2 clean room. The twin arrays will power the spacecraft and its science instruments during a mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

See also


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    $\begingroup$ Concerning the "deep space" record, I suspect it is held by either Juno or Rosetta (though Psyche will be larger than both.) However, I am having a remarkably hard time tracking down the size of the solar panels on the Juno probe. There are numbers ranging from 50 square meters to 72 square meters running around on the web. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2022 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelSeifert This NASA site is in line with the 72 square meters figure you cited (72.09 square meters, to be precise, if the numbers on that page are correct). That's the size of the panels, including structure and electrical interconnects. The active area be smaller than that. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2022 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen: What confuses me is this Lockheed Martin page that gives a figure of 535 square feet (a shade under 50 square meters). You'd also expect them to know what they were talking about. I suppose that may be the total active area, but it seems like a bigger discrepancy than I would expect. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2022 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ I wonder if the figures of 72 square meters are being obtained simply by multiplying length x width x 3 (for the three booms), and neglecting that one of the booms doesn't have as many solar panels because it holds the magnetometer. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2022 at 13:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelSeifert length x width x 2 is suspiciously (or coincidently) close to 535 ft$^2$ $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2022 at 17:13

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One solar array wing on the ISS, consisting of two blankets stretched out by a supporting mast, contains 32,800 cells that are approximately 8 cm by 8 cm, giving a total active area of approximately 210 square meters, not including electrical and structural interconnects. ISS has eight of these. This is not counting the newly installed IROSA arrays.

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    $\begingroup$ The ISS is the clear winner with regard to any vehicle in space. Nothing comes close. Also note that the Russian segment also has solar arrays, but these are tiny compared to the huge ones on the US segment. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2022 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ Noteworthy: the new panels will be covering the old ones. $\endgroup$
    – Arsenal
    Mar 8, 2022 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ @Arsenal Yes, but only partially, and those portions of the legacy arrays that aren't covered up still contribute power $\endgroup$
    – Tristan
    Mar 8, 2022 at 21:02
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The largest in space is the International Space Station, as Tristan mentioned.

The largest outside of Earth's orbit is most likely either one of the two Jupiter (Distance) missions with solar panels, Juno or Lucy, or visiting small solar system objects with ion drives in the Asteroid belt or further, Rosetta or Dawn. Those are:

  • Rosetta- 61.5 m²
  • Juno- 72 m² (Some conflicting reports on this one, may be less)
  • Dawn- 38.2 m²
  • Lucy- Around 51 m²

So Juno has the largest solar panels in deep space, at least if you trust the larger set of numbers. If not, it is Rosetta.

Of some note, the record will be beat by Psyche, at 75 m² area, whenever it launches.

As for the largest solar panels in GEO, that's extremely hard to determine. There is a high likelihood that it is a classified satellite, or a commercial satellite that doesn't publicize the size of its solar panels for proprietary reasons.

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    $\begingroup$ As Michael Seifert noted in his comments under the question, the numbers for Juno are hard to chase down. $\endgroup$ Mar 8, 2022 at 16:07
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ESA's Earth Return Orbiter (ERO) is worth a mention in the "above GEO" category.

This mission is currently being developed for the NASA/ESA Mars Sample Return Campaign. It will use solar electric propulsion to help complete the round-trip to Mars and back.

The spacecraft has considerable power requirements and will be equipped with the largest-ever solar arrays for an interplanetary mission. These will provide a total area 144 m$^2$, and have a combined wing span of almost 40 m!

Below is an infographic from ESA including a size comparison with other ESA Mars missions. You can also read more about this mission here.

enter image description here

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