SPACE STATION POWER OPTIONS
NASA allocated all Space Station definition work between four “Work Packages” managed by its Johnson,Marshall,Goddard & Lewis Space Centers in July 1984. Work Package 4, led by the Lewis Research Center, would investigate Space Station power options. The two leading contenders are shown here: photovoltaic solar arrays (top) and solar thermodynamic generators (bottom)
Solar thermodynamic generators use huge parabolic dishes to heat a fluid, which then powers electric generators. They are more efficient than traditional photovoltaic solar panels, have a longer lifetime and generate less atmospheric drag. But they must also be pointed to within 1.5 degrees of the Sun to generate electricity, and the concept has mever been tried before.
NASA awarded contracts worth a combined $144 million to six contractor teams in April 1985, including $20 million to Work Package 4 contractors TRW and Lockheed. The agency still had not decided whether solar thermodynamic generators (above) or photovoltaic arrays would be chosen.
This concept from the late 1980s would generate auxiliary power from the Earth's magnetic field by connecting a generator to a long electrically conducting tether. The other end is attached to the Space Station.