The United States Air Force is working on harvesting the energy of the sun but not from Earth, like normal engineers, but from space and beam it down for us to use on Earth.
This was announced by the Air Force Research laboratory via a YouTube video that described the initial idea as well as how this tech could be used in future. ARFL in the past has been instrumental in discovering, developing and integrating affordable warfighting technologies for air and space forces.
The project is called SSPIDR that’s short for Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research. According to the laboratory, ground-based solar solutions are definitely an attractive solution but it’s restricted to the area, size of the panels as well as the climate/weather conditions.
However, researchers say that if these panels were in orbit instead of on the ground, they’d get “unfettered access to the sun’s rays” providing an uninterrupted supply of energy.
AFRL’s concept talks about sunlight-harvesting satellites that are equipped with “sandwich tiles” that will convert solar energy into radio frequency power and beam it to Earth, where antennas will receive the radio frequencies and turn them into usable power.
ARFL plans to send a series of ground and flight experiments under SSPIDR to allow the technologies to mature and be adopted by engineers across the nation. For one experiment, dubbed Arachne, they will test power conversion and beaming in space with the help of a sandwich tile built by Northrop Grumman. It’s scheduled to be launched to Earth’s orbit in 2024.
Another experiment dubbed SPINDLE and SPIRRAL will show the orbital deployment of a scaled-down version of a power-beaming satellite and run tests to balance satellite temperatures in a manageable range, respectively. SPINDLE is expected to be launched in 2023 on Alpha Space Material’s ISS Experiment Flight Facility and is going to be deployed outside the ISS.
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