Spacecraft are a lot of things — practical, scientific, sometimes shiny — but aesthetic beauty is (usually) not very high on the priority list. That could be about to change.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory mechanical engineer Brian Trease studied the Japanese art of origami, and now he wants to bring that creativity to space-bound solar panels and arrays. Trease, along with researchers from Brigham Young University and origami expert Robert Lang, have taken the folded origami principles and actually created some working prototypes of the origami solar panels.
Trease called the project a “unique crossover of art and culture and technology,” according to Space, and we’re inclined to agree. Basically, the group designed an origami-like prototype that can transform an 82-foot solar panel into a tight 8.9-foot range. The prototype is admittedly one-twentieth of that size, but the concept seems to hold true. Oh, and it looks awesome.
The design is similar to a blooming flower once it’s unfolded, and they went with that somewhat unorthodox look because solar panels are too thick for more traditional origami designs. Assuming the concept scales up, the team believes the design could save precious space in future craft and provide much-needed power.
Plus, ya know, it looks really pretty.