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United States Navy developing space based solar power technology

NASA solar power sattelite concept 1976
NASA solar power sattelite concept 1976

The concept of space based solar power, in which a solar power station in space collects the sun’s energy and then beams it to Earth, has been around as a serious technological concept since the late 1960s. In a March 17, 2014 story Wired reports that the United States Navy is experimenting with hardware to make the concept into reality.

“The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) is building technology that will allow the military to capture solar power in orbit and project it back down to Earth. Not only would space solar potentially save the Pentagon buckets of cash, but it could simplify military deployments. Fuel tankers would no longer have to reach remote or volatile areas, and missions could run longer without having to return to base to refuel.

“So far, NRL has built and tested two different prototypes of what they call a ‘sandwich’ module, named for a design innovation that packs all the electrical components between two square panels. The top side is a photovoltaic panel that absorbs the Sun’s rays. An electronics system in the middle converts the energy to a radio frequency, and the bottom is an antenna that transfers the power toward a target on the ground.”

The idea of space based solar power has been touted as a clean energy alternative for decades. Not coincidentally it has also been used as a justification for space exploration. Some imagine using lunar or asteroid resources to build huge solar collectors that would beam energy for use on Earth.

The Navy concept involved a one kilometer in diameter space based solar collector that would be assembled by robots. Building such an instillation would be expensive. But then so it trucking diesel fuel to remote based through enemy infested territory.