Space-Borne Solar Power Project Takes Off

14th Jan 2023
Space-Borne Solar Power Project Takes Off

Satellite Applications Catapult (SAC), a UK-based space company, has secured government funding for its new sustainable energy project. SAC’s mission includes “connecting industry and academia” as well as getting “new research off the ground and into the market more quickly.” The idea behind the project is to use satellites to harvest and transmit huge levels of solar power to the earth in what’s called a Space-Based Solar Power, or SBSP project.

SBSP off the drawing board

SAC has been guaranteed £500k in funding, with the UK Space Agency helping to test the viability of the project. The goal is to create totally renewable energy with power transmission from space so that the solar power can be harnessed and used on earth.

The project is setting out to investigate how high-altitude impacts the transmission of power, and demonstrate wireless power transmission. The project will simulate the impact of power density effects from SBSP, including on aircraft.

The goal is to create a prototype of a modular space structure with the ability to harvest and transfer power. It will need to include the servicing and assembly of the structure and also explore the best processes for these complicated systems. 

The concept has been discussed since the 1920s, with influential sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov referencing this sort of solar harvesting, along with numerous scientists and academics.

If the system works, the satellites will be designed to be harvesting the sunlight before converting it to microwaves that can be sent down to receivers here on earth. Satellites are likely to be vast, but have the potential to produce levels of power surpassing huge power stations here on earth.

There are currently some technology gaps and immense challenges to get this off the ground, but with this funding, there is a chance that this revolutionary tech could be closer than we thought.

Sam Adlen, Chief Strategy Officer at the Satellite Applications Catapult, spoke about the deal. He said: “This project is a vital first step in the development of a viable Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) solution. By funding SBSP, the UK Space Agency is demonstrating its commitment to this important future energy technology and that gives us a vital boost as we kick-start this work.

The funding allows us to deliver many of the critical enabling elements to ensure we get the whole solution, from technology to environmental and regulatory aspects, right the first time.” 

Dr Mamatha Maheshwarappa from the UK Space Agency, said: “Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) has the exciting potential to provide sustainable energy, helping meet the government’s net-zero target and provide energy security. We’re supporting Space Based Solar Power at different stages to accelerate the technology developments.”

The project will cost a total of £620k, with the vast majority of it coming from the UK Space Agency and a further contribution from the Satellite Applications Catapult. The organisation is currently expanding its team, and new careers and placement opportunities are likely to become available as part of this particular SBSP project. 

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