Earth Day Feature: Beaming Solar Power From Satellite Array

The image shows AFRL’s Space Solar Power Incremental and Demonstrations Research Project radiating solar energy from space to Earth. SSPIDR consists of several small-scale flight experiments that will mature the technology needed to build a prototype solar power distribution system. Courtesy / AFRL

KIRTLAND AFB – In honor of Earth Day, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) highlights its efforts to harness the sun’s energy, convert it into radio frequency (RF) energy, and beam it to Earth – a green power source for US and Allied forces.

Key technologies must be developed to realize such a complicated process. In response to this challenge, AFRL established the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) project to develop the critical technologies needed for such a system.

A major goal of SSPIDR is to break the one meter square opening threshold for solar energy capture and conversion and beam that energy to the ground, which is what AFRL will do with Arachne – SSPIDR’s flagship flight experiments.

A large-scale solar energy system in space will collect solar energy, convert it into a radio frequency (RF) and send it to a receiving station on the ground. The receiving station will then convert the RF into clean, usable power. Such an operational system would provide the ability to use solar energy anywhere in the world, regardless of weather or latitude, day or night, and without vulnerable logistics lines.

Space Solar Power is internationally recognized as a fundamental power that must be developed. It enables exploration, military advantage, as well as economic growth and trade with more sustainable energy sources. That is why it is important to explore possible solutions to overcome the technical challenges posed by solar energy in space.

Learn more about AFRL’s strategy for developing the innovative technologies needed to support a large-scale space solar power transmission system in this video link:

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfare technologies for our air, space and cyberspace forces. With a workforce of more than 11,000 in nine technology areas and 40 other operations around the world, AFRL offers a diverse portfolio of science and technology, ranging from basic to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit: