Solar Panel Deployment Rig

In collaboration with Airbus Defense & Space, the aerospace design engineers of engineering firm Pentacon have developed test equipment for the mechanical ground support equipment division. It concerns a 8.5 metre high framework that is designed to simulate the frictionless unfolding of solar panels on satellite installations in a weightless state on Earth before they are sent into space.

The extremely high demands that are put on such test installations have resulted in an ultra-rigid framework with a maximum sag of less than 0.5 mm over a length of about 16 metres. This is essential for accurately testing the panels.

The frame, which was built and delivered by the aerospace design engineers of engineering firm Pentacon in collaboration with the Microtechniek machine factory, was designed so that the 16-metre long construction can be disassembled and fits into 8 sea containers for transport to the desired test location.
The plan is to use the frame to test the solar panels of the BepiColombo mission, a satellite for exploring the planet Mercury. In addition, the solar panels of the Earthcare satellite will be tested as well. This satellite will explore the Earth’s atmosphere.