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Space power – a sci-fi future slowly becomes reality

The European Space Agency has launched a highly ambitious project to supply Europe with power by drawing solar energy directly from space via an orbiting power plant made up of thousands of photovoltaic panels perched 36 000 km above the Earth.

The electricity will be transmitted by waves sent from space and received on Earth. The project, worthy of a sci-fi flick, is within reach according to Airbus and the European Space Agency, which dream of making this future challenge a reality within 20 years.

“In people’s imagination, the idea of having a beam coming from space onto the earth makes us think of science fiction films in which things go wrong. The reality is that it is not a laser beam that has a destructive purpose,” Airbus Blue Sky Manager, Jean -Dominique Coste said.

The Airbus workshops in Munich (Germany), are already testing wireless energy transfer. 1,000 watts are transferred before the eyes of the France Télévisions team, without leaving any trace. Enough to run a hoover, for example. The development team claims that a full-scale test will be possible within a few years, before the development of a 2 km long solar farm that would produce the equivalent of a nuclear power plant.

US Air Force on track with innovation

Researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) already started research on space power beaming years ago with the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project.

In December 2021 AFRL “successfully conducted the first end-to-end demonstration of key hardware for the Arachne flight experiment. A ground demonstration of novel components for the ‘sandwich tile’ were used to successfully convert solar energy to radio frequency (RF) – a fundamental step required to pave the way for a large-scale solar power collection system in space,” an AFRL press release stated.

Are you a fan of spiders, space and solar power? Then buckle up.

Learn about Arachne, the keystone flight experiment of the SSPIDR project and its mission to transmit solar power earthbound: | #WorldSpaceWeek | #AFRLSpace

— Air Force Research Lab – AFRL (@AFResearchLab) October 7, 2022

The development of this kind of technology could bring mankind closer to a carbon-neutral future and help solve energy crises and dependence on coal, gas and oil-based energy. However, the research is still in the early stages of development.

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