More than 50 UK technology companies, including space maker Airbus, Cambridge University and satellite maker SSTL, have joined the UK space energy initiative, which is set to explore options for building a power plant in space by 2035.
According to SpaceThe project bets that the transmission of electricity from space using the sun will help the UK achieve the goal of zeroing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Speaking at the Dovert A Space Enabled Net-Zero Earth conference in London, Martin Soldav, leader of the initiative, said all the technologies needed to build a space-based solar power plant were already in place.
The task was commissioned by the UK government last year based on an engineering study conducted by consulting firm Frazer-Nash. “The study concluded that this is technically possible and does not require any improvement in the rules of physics, new materials or component technology,” Soldav said.
At the same conference, Andrew Rose Wilson, a space engineering researcher at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, acknowledged that a space-based solar power plant was a realistic project.
“This concept has been around since the 1960s,” he pointed out, adding that one of the challenges in making this plant work is the question of what will happen to the giant structure once it reaches the end of its productive life. “We should try to see recycling in orbit to move towards a more rounded economy.”
According to Soltau, the development project is 12 years old and a demonstration plant with robots in orbit can already be seen transmitting gigawatts of energy from space to Earth.
Space illustrates how the project explores the modular concept of CASSIOPeiA (fixed hole, solid-state, integrated, orbital phase sequence or fixed aperture, solid state, integrated, orbital sequence, Portuguese) developed by the British engineering firm International Electric. Company.
This uniqueness of the plant in orbit means that it can be expanded after the demonstration phase. But the protester is even larger and has a diameter of several kilometers, orbiting 36,000 kilometers from Earth.
“The main function of the satellite is to collect solar energy through large, light mirrors and concentrate the energy in photovoltaic cells, as we do on Earth,” Soltau said. “They produce direct current electricity, which is converted into microwaves via solid-state radio frequency power amplifiers and transmitted to Earth via a synchronous microwave beam.”
According to the researchers, CASSIOPeiA will produce more electricity than a similar-scale terrestrial solar plant. The latter will harvest 13 times more energy compared to a solar panel placed in the UK and a similar one installed in space.
Another advantage is that the space plant is not affected by the relentless problem, which affects most of the renewable energy production on Earth.
To receive power from space, the computer would need a giant earth-based antenna. This device, nicknamed the Rectenna, receives microwave radiation from space and converts it into direct current, which is used for high voltage transmission.
The system acts as an open network of antennas measuring 7 to 13 km. “It’s huge, but in the UK environment, it only takes up 40% of the area of an equivalent solar farm,” Soltau concludes.
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