A group of scientists from Caltech claims to have achieved a milestone by transmitting space-based solar power to Earth. The concept of transmitting solar energy from space is not new; in fact, NASA engineer Peter Glaser presented the first design concept for a solar-powered satellite in 1968. However, for the first time in 55 years, scientists have successfully carried out an experiment that beams sunlight converted into electricity to microwave receivers installed on a rooftop on Caltech’s Pasadena campus via their space-borne prototype called Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD-1). This achievement also indicates that the setup, which first launched on January 3, is capable of enduring the adventure through space and the harsh space environment. The team deployed the Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment (MAPLE) to complete the experiment, which is one of the three research initiatives being carried out aboard SSPD-1. The transmission system was designed to minimize the fuel used to launch it into space, and the design was lightweight and flexible enough to pave the way for the transmitters to be folded onto a rocket. The use of microwaves to transmit power would ensure that cloud cover would not become an interference. Solar panels could collect sunlight from space regardless of the time of day, offering limitless renewable energy. Japan’s space agency, JAXA, also announced its partnership with private companies in the quest to send solar power from space by 2025.
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