Airbus Defence and Space is developing new systems and technologies for transferring orbital solar energy to Earth. This technology would provide clean energy from an inexhaustible source, and form part of a portfolio of urgently needed, long-term environmentally neutral solutions to the world’s increasing energy needs.
The research project, Space Based Solar Power (SBSP), is investigating the use of space platforms – essentially large satellites – to collect solar energy and redirect it using laser beams operating at eye-safe wavelengths to specially equipped receiver on Earth. The on-board lasers will operate at powers which are comparable to a normal summer’s day and therefore safe for humans and animals to walk through.
The SBSP platform would preferably be placed in geostationary orbit to ensure a permanent visibility of ground receivers; from here energy can be directed to locations on the visible portion of the Earth’s surface.
With technologies that are potentially available in the reasonably short term, a single satellite would be capable of providing around 10 kW to the ground end-user with a laser power transmission system. This basic building block and improvements to it could then be used to construct multi-satellite systems providing power to users with no access to existing electrical power grids.
Airbus Defence and Space already masters and has delivered in a number of programmes the key technologies to make this project a reality – high-power telecommunications satellites, space-qualified mirrors (such as the one developed for the Herschel observatory), and laser technology.