Naval Research Laboratory’s Experiment Now In Orbit Written 19 May 2020


X-37B spaceplane at Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA | USAF)

Space News reports that a US Naval Research Laboratory “experiment to capture solar power in space for use on Earth is now in orbit and ready to be tested.” The experiment launched aboard the X-37B spaceplane on May 17. The “technology aboard the plane is a ‘photovoltaic radio-frequency antenna module’ to be tested as part of a comprehensive investigation into terrestrial use of solar energy captured in space, program manager Chris Depuma said May 18 in a news release.” Principal investigator Paul Jaffe said, “To our knowledge, this experiment is the first test in orbit of hardware designed specifically for solar power satellites, which could play a revolutionary role in our energy future.” The “12-inch square tile module will test whether power can be harvested from its solar panel and transform the energy to a radio frequency microwave. The experiment has been in the works for more than a decade.” Researchers “believe that a space solar system traveling above the atmosphere would catch far more energy than it would be possible on the ground due to the abundant and unimpeded sunlight in space. One of the concerns is the thermal performance of the hardware.” Jaffe said, “It’s kind of a tricky problem to have something that’s in direct sunlight all the time and maintain the temperature of the electronics.”
Full Story (Space News)