The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is developing space-based solar power transmission capability using high-efficiency solar cells to collect the sun’s energy, convert it to radio frequency, and beam it to earth.
“Energy is a strategic enabler and potential vulnerability for our nation and our Department of Defense” said U.S. Air Force Col. Eric Felt, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate. “To ensure DoD mission success we must have the energy we need at the right place at the right time.”
Providing uninterrupted, assured, and agile power to expeditionary forces operating in unimproved areas such as forward operating bases would provide an advantage to US and allied forces.
“The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project is a very interesting concept that will enable us to capture solar energy in space and precisely beam it to where it is needed,” Felt said. “SSPIDR is part of AFRL’s ‘big idea pipeline’ to ensure we continue to develop game-changing technologies for our Air Force, DoD, nation, and world.”
AFRL researchers are focused on developing and demonstrating some of the key technologies necessary to integrate into a conceptual space-based power beaming system. Northrop Grumman will partner with AFRL and has been awarded a contract valued at more than $100 million to develop and deliver the critical hardware elements to support space-based experiments into this leading-edge technology.