­Space Solar Takes Major Step Forward

Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD


Space Solar has completed a detailed study to confirm the performance characteristics of its CASSIOPeiA Solar Power Satellite concept


­Space Solar Takes Major Step Forward


Over the last decade or so, the uptake in renewable energy has soared. We are now extracting more and more energy out of the environment instead of relying on coal and other environmentally damaging carbon fuels. If advances in renewable technology continue at the same pace as they have done, in the near future, we may not need coal or oil at all in our energy mix. However, for that to happen, the solar and wind energy that we accumulate at the moment would need to be increased by a massive amount. This acceleration would require huge areas of land.


An alternative option would be to look outside of the earth to capture energy. It has been known for some time that solar energy from space can be gathered much more efficiently that sunlight on earth. The current estimate is that space-based solar generates up to 13 times more energy than land-based. Space solar also has advantages in that it can provide continuous energy through both the day and the night in all weathers at a cost that is very competitive with terrestrial renewables. The main sticking point at the moment is getting that energy back down to earth.


Space Solar is a UK-based company that has been working on that specific problem. The company has just completed a detailed engineering design and analysis study that has confirmed the performance characteristics of its CASSIOPeiA Solar Power Satellite concept. The results of the research have also been supported by Space Solar’s ongoing wireless power beaming hardware test programme.


The Space Solar system concept involves a 2GW satellite that weighs 2,000 tonnes, is 1.7km in diameter which collects solar energy and transmits it down to earth. Its ability to orbit to operate in a range of orbits ensures it can supply a number of energy markets and regions on earth. The power is then sent to earth as microwave energy, where a ‘rectenna’ - a large but sparse net-like structure - converts the microwave energy into electricity.


The study, which was undertaken in partnership with Frazer-Nash Consultancy, looked at both ground and spacecraft systems. The CASSIOPeiA Solar Power Satellite solution has the ability to operate in a range of different orbits, delivering continuous power economically. The study looked at the baseline design in critical design areas, such as the structure, thermal management, attitude and orbit control, photovoltaics and light path. The results of the study proved that the performance and mass targets were met. Initial findings from the company’s HARRIER wireless power transmission demonstrator have also been fed into the study, and helped to optimise the design. The company’s priority areas for development in the next stage have now been confirmed.


Sam Adlen, Co-CEO at Space Solar said, “With the design validated, we are now focussed on the next stage, which is developing the system and demonstrating that the technology can operate at an increasing scale. We are targeting an in-orbit demonstration within three years and delivering meaningful power from space within six years”.