ESA SOLARIS: Wireless power launched from space

Solar energy gathers far in space, and is seen here being transmitted wirelessly to Earth wherever it is needed. The European Space Agency plans to investigate the key technologies needed to make space-based solar energy a reality through its SOLARIS initiative. One such technology – wireless power transmission – was recently demonstrated in Germany to an audience of business and government decision makers. Credit: Airbus

Solar energy can be collected far in space and wirelessly transmitted back to Earth wherever it is needed. The European Space Agency (ESA) plans to investigate the key technologies needed to make space-based solar energy a reality through its SOLARIS initiative. Recently in Germany, one of these technologies, wireless power transmission, was demonstrated to an audience of business and government decision makers.

The show was held at Airbus’ X-Works innovation plant in Munich. Microwaves were used to transmit green energy between two points representing “space” and “earth” at a distance of 36 metres.

The energy received was used to light a typical city and produce green hydrogen by splitting water. It even worked on producing the world’s first non-alcoholic beer that was wirelessly chilled in the fridge before being introduced to a viewing audience.

To prepare Europe for future decision-making on space solar power, the European Space Agency has proposed a preparatory program for Europe, initially called SOLARIS, for the upcoming ESA Ministerial-level Council in November 2022. Solar power from space is a potential source of clean, affordable, and sustainable energy , plentiful, and safe. This basic concept has been given new urgency by the need for new sources of clean and safe energy to help Europe transition to a carbon-neutral world by 2050. If Europe is to tap into this game-changing ability, we need to start investing now. Credit: ESA – European Space Agency

For a working version of a space-based solar power system, solar satellites in geostationary orbit would collect sunlight on a continuous basis 24/7 and then turn it into low-power microwaves for safe transmission to receiving stations on Earth. The physics involved means that these satellites would have to be large, on the order of several kilometers in size, to generate the energy equivalent of a typical nuclear power plant. The same would be true for the accumulation of ‘Rectinas’ on the Earth’s surface.

Technological advances in areas such as in-space manufacturing and automated assembly, low-cost and high-efficiency photovoltaics, high-power electronics, and radiofrequency beamforming will be required to realize this vision. Further research to confirm the effects of low-energy microwaves on human and animal health is benign and compatibility with aircraft and satellites will be conducted as well.

The European Space Agency’s SOLARIS – which was proposed to European Space Ministers at the Agency’s Ministerial-level Council from November 22-23 – will look at these technologies, to allow the agency’s member states to make an informed choice about the future implementation of space-based solar energy as a source new. of clean, permanent “baseload” energy supplementing existing renewables, helping Europe reach net zero by mid-century.

Additionally, any breakthroughs made in these areas will also benefit many other spaceflight endeavors in addition to terrestrial applications.


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