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Plan to research solar power from space

Written by  Monday, 26 September 2022 11:20
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SOLARIS R&D programme

The Sun never stops shining in space, and sunlight is much more intense there than on Earth's surface. So what if we could gather that energy up in space then beam it down to Earth?

Recent studies funded by the Preparation element of ESA’s Basic Activities programme, show the concept, called Space-Based Solar Power, is theoretically workable and could support the path to decarbonising the energy sector. However, significant uncertainties and technical challenges remain. In response ESA is proposing a R&D programme to mature the concept and its critical technologies – SOLARIS.

Receiving rectenna on the ground
Receiving rectenna on the ground

This in turn would require technical advancements in areas such as in-space manufacturing and robotic assembly, high-efficiency photovoltaics, high power electronics and radio frequency beam forming. Further research to confirm benign effects of low-power microwaves on human and animal health and compatibility with aircraft and satellites would also be undertaken.

“These are the kind of technical questions that SOLARIS will look into, to explore further the feasibility of the concept, so that Europe could make an informed decision in 2025 on whether to proceed with a Space-Based Solar Power programme in the future,” says Sanjay Vijendran, ESA’s lead for the SOLARIS proposal. “As an added plus, any breakthroughs achieved in these areas will be valuable in their own right, applicable to many other spaceflight endeavours.

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