The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is developing a project called SSPIDR (Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research). It will collect solar energy in space and send it for use on Earth.
AFRL will design satellites that are equipped with innovative “sandwich panels” that will convert solar energy into radio frequency (RF) energy and radiate it to Earth. Down here, the receiving antennas will convert this RF energy into usable energy.
“For this purpose, a ground-based solar battery is also suitable, but then we will be limited by its area, the size of the required collectors and the climate on the planet,” the scientists noted. “But if the solar panels were in orbit, they could have unhindered access to the sun’s rays, ensuring an uninterrupted supply of energy.”
These technologies will demonstrate the orbital deployment of a scaled-down version of a power-transfer satellite and will test ways to keep the satellite temperature within a manageable range. The launch of the project is scheduled for 2023 at the experimental installation of the International Space Station (ISS).
Scientists will also not only transfer energy to Earth, but will also help researchers assess the conversion efficiency of sunlight. The researchers note their “early results are promising.”