Sunlight is far more than 10 times more powerful for space probes high above Earth, outside the atmosphere, than for people on the ground in Europe. SBSP satellites might also experience the sun daily, to grab as much light as they can. The satellites could then transmit energy to Earth, the Moon, or other planets. However, SBSP devices remain in the early development stages. ESA hadn’t honestly scrutinized the subject since 2006, so the Space Agency Discovery program today solicited ideas to solve the question: “How do you quickly translate a huge quantity of solar energy into a meaningful format and beam it onto Earth or another planetary outer layer?”
This is a very quick and efficient question. Since COP26, there has been much discussion about technology issues to decrease carbon dioxide emissions and achieve net zero emissions. And all the while, interstellar travel has become simpler, less expensive, and more durable, removing one of the most significant barriers to achieving SBSP. ESA hoped to spark a synchronized initiative to reevaluate SBSP and see how we can move toward illustrating its capability of providing seemingly limitless, continuously available, clean energy on Earth with the OSIP call for ideas.
Thirteen of the 85 ideas obtained chosen for financial support. The activities have all recently begun to investigate a huge spectrum of SBSP technology solutions, such as how to accumulate sunlight more proficiently and securely distribute this power to Earth, in addition to how to manufacture, gather, regulate, and keep these massive solar power satellites in the proper location.
“We saw a really diverse group of people interested in this topic – we had ideas from academic institutions, start-ups, and traditional space companies,” Advenit Makaya says. “It’s encouraging to see that so many organizations remain interested; OSIP enabled us to connect with them and collect this rich collection of ideas from interested and experienced parties.”
According to ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher, this emerging technology could reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. ”If you can do it from Space Agency, and I’m saying if we could, because we are not there yet, this would be absolutely fantastic because it would solve a lot of problems,” he was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Commercial Landscape Seed Planting
SBSP is a wide range of disciplines and subject matter that involves diverse technologies at various points in their development. With this call, ESA invited a wide range of organizations to come together under a recurring idea.
“Every organization approaches the problem differently,” Advenit says. “For example, some aspects of SBSP are still in their infancy and thus require academic research.” Meanwhile, some require the ingenuity of start-ups, others require a high level of experience from space companies, still, others require the outside perspective and expertise of non-space companies (such as those in the energy sector), and still, others require a system-level overview that large system integrators can provide.
ESA is assisting businesses in entering this new area of space technology advancements through these 13 operations. The activities are comparatively tiny seeds that will germinate into significant technological advances that will accommodate a much larger picture. The production and preservation of SBSP will create a consumer sector that will profit Europe; eventually, this topic will be about the commercial business of generating clean energy to meet society’s needs while safeguarding our planet from any further destruction.
What else is ESA Doing to Move SBSP Forward?
ESA-sponsored products have designed for Space-based Solar Power for Net Zero by 2050 in December 2021, which drew more than 360 people from the space and non-space sectors. The objective was to look into the critical role that SBSP could play in tackling climate change, as well as how it could influence and shape ESA’s future programs.
“The more we learn about space solar power, the more it appears to be a credible way to provide large-scale, clean, and dispatchable energy for our future needs on Earth,” said Angeliki Kapoglou, an ESA researcher who was involved in the workshop’s planning. “This workshop was just the beginning of a fascinating journey.”
Besides that, financial analysis research to investigate the ‘business case’ for SBSP as a prospective future supplier of clean energy for Europe is scheduled to begin in early 2022 as a result of the ESA Preparation Program’s ‘What’s Next?” call for ideas. The study’s findings will also assist in determining the next steps that ESA and Europe will take for this exciting future capability.
According to ESA, satellites would need to draw on the sun’s energy on an ongoing basis, and then energy can be converted to microwave radiation that could be successfully beamed at power stations on Earth’s surface for a utility-scale system. To accomplish this, the company estimated that both the Space Agency and the accumulating antennas on Earth would need to be massive – potentially a mile wide in order to extract the roughly comparable nuclear power from space-based solar.
Attempting to harness solar power from Space Agency may be easier than on Earth because satellites would not have to worry about daylight hours and clouds would not be an impediment. “The idea of space-based solar power is no longer science fiction,” Sanjay Vijendran, the scientist behind ESA’s Solaris program, told the BBC. “The potential is there and we now need to really understand the technological path before a decision can made to go ahead with trying to build something in space.” The ESA is indeed collaborating with NASA in the Sentinel-6 program, a satellite-based system that monitors how climate change affects the world’s oceans.
The decision made today endorses preliminary research on the idea’s technical, political, and good profits in front of the next ministerial conference in 2025 when a decision on whether or not to launch a major expansion program will made. The concept has been floating around for decades, but current revelations like the climate crisis, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a significant decline in the expense of heavy orbital launches have propelled it to the forefront.