Air Force is Working on Plans to Send Solar Energy Down From Space

irjNovember 5, 201971

Summary:

The United States Air Force is working on developing a solar-powered system that would allow the military to collect solar energy in space and send it down to Earth.

Main Article:

The United States Air Force is working on developing a solar-powered system that would allow the military to collect solar energy in space and send it down to Earth.

Stars and Stripes reports that the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico is working on a more than $100 million solar panel installation project, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, known as the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstration and Research project (SSPIDR).

The SSPIDR would collect solar energy in space and convert it into a radio frequency to beam down to Earth, which would then be converted back to energy by receiving stations on the ground.

The idea may sound like something out of science fiction novel, but it has been around since the 1960s, as Stars and Stripes reports. Not only would the SSPIDR allow the military to send solar energy to remote outposts, but it would also eliminate the risks currently involved in getting electricity to outposts in hostile regions.

Currently, military conveys have to bring diesel fuel generators to outposts, exposing troops to potential ambushes. However, the SSPIDR would allow the outposts to receive solar energy without putting U.S. soldiers’ lives at risk.

Col. Eric Felt, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, told Stars and Stripes that “To ensure DOD mission success, we must have the energy we need at the right place at the right time.”

Engadget reports that China plans to launch develop and launch a similar solar-powered system by 2025.

The SSPIDR would also be more effective than existing solar panels, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that roughly 30% of solar energy is reflected into space by Earth’s atmosphere. The SSPIDR could collect energy all day long — if it is positioned properly in space — and continuously beam it down to Earth.

In 2014, the Department of Energy said that Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) could help communities across the globe:

“Additionally, SBSP can be used to get reliable and clean energy to people in remote communities around the world, without relying on the traditional grid to a large local power plant.”

While the Department of Energy said it wasn’t working on SBSP technology at the time, it suggested that the technology to pull of the solar energy project could be developed shortly:

“But many technologies already exist to make this feasible, and many aren’t far behind. While the Energy Department isn’t currently developing any SBSP technologies specifically, many of the remaining technologies needed for SBSP could be developed independently in the years to come.”

The SSPIDR would consist of several satellites with solar panels, roughly the size of two football fields, to collect the solar energy and beam it down to Earth night and day.

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