Space-based solar power will not just be a sci-fi dream forever, if things go according to the plans of the US Air Force.
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is developing a project called SSPIDR (“Demonstrations and Incremental Research of Solar Space Energy”), which aims to mature the technology needed for harvesting. of solar energy in space and suppress it for use on Earth.
Such capability would be a great advantage on the battlefield, Air Force officials said.
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“Ensuring that a forward operational base maintains reliable power is one of the most dangerous parts of ground ground operations. Convoys and supply lines are a major target for opponents,” the video narrator states. New AFRL on SSPIDR.
“The land-based sun, while appearing an attractive solution, is limited by area, the size of collectors needed and the climate,” adds the narrator. “But if the solar panels were in orbit, they could have seamless access to the sun’s rays, providing an uninterrupted power supply.”
The AFRL provides solar harvesting satellites equipped with innovative “sandwich tiles”, which convert solar energy into radio frequency (RF) power and orbit it on Earth. Below, receiving antennas transform that RF energy into usable energy.
AFRL will not build such an operating system, but hopes to pave the way for it with SSPIDR, a series of ground and flight experiments that will help mature the necessary technologies.
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For example, one SSPIDR experiment, known as Arachne, will test the conversion of energy and beams in space using a sandwich tile built by project partner Northrop Grumman. Arachne is scheduled to leave Earth orbit in 2024.
SSPIDR also includes experiments called SPINDLE and SPIRRAL, which will demonstrate the orbital deployment of a reduced version of a power-beaming satellite and test ways to keep the satellite’s temperatures within a manageable range, respectively.
SPINDLE is scheduled to be launched in 2023 on the Alpha Space International Space Station Flight Facility, which is designed for use outside the International Space Station.
And there is already some space research on solar energy on our heads. The Photovoltaic Radio Frequency Antenna Module Flight Experiment, or PRAM-FX, was launched aboard the U.S. Space Force’s X-37B robotic space plane in May 2020.
PRAM-FX is not lasting the Earth, but is helping researchers measure the conversion efficiency of sunlight to sandwich tile RF. And the early prospects are promising, a recent study showed.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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