Scientists beam solar power to Earth from space for first time

June 14, 2023
The Space Solar Power Demonstrator's MAPLE experiment was able to wirelessly transfer collected solar power to receivers in space and direct energy to Earth, Robert Lea reports for

PASADENA, Calif., - A space solar power prototype has demonstrated its ability to wirelessly beam power through space and direct a detectable amount of energy toward Earth for the first time. The experiment proves the viability of tapping into a near-limitless supply of power in the form of energy from the sun from space, Robert Lea reports for Continue reading original article.

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

14 June 2023 - Caltech says that MAPLE, short for Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment and one of the three key experiments within SSPD-1, consists of an array of flexible lightweight microwave power transmitters driven by custom electronic chips that were built using low-cost silicon technologies. It uses the array of transmitters to beam the energy to desired locations. For SSPP to be feasible, energy transmission arrays will need to be lightweight to minimize the amount of fuel needed to send them to space, flexible so they can fold up into a package that can be transported in a rocket, and a low-cost technology overall.

MAPLE was developed by a Caltech team led by Ali Hajimiri, Bren Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering and co-director of SSPP.

"Through the experiments we have run so far, we received confirmation that MAPLE can transmit power successfully to receivers in space," Hajimiri says. "We have also been able to program the array to direct its energy toward Earth, which we detected here at Caltech. We had, of course, tested it on Earth, but now we know that it can survive the trip to space and operate there."

Caltech says that MAPLE features two separate receiver arrays located about a foot away from the transmitter to receive the energy, convert it to direct current (DC) electricity, and use it to light up a pair of LEDs to demonstrate the full sequence of wireless energy transmission at a distance in space. MAPLE tested this in space by lighting up each LED individually and shifting back and forth between them. The experiment is not sealed, so it is subject to the harsh environment of space, including the wide temperature swings and solar radiation that will be faced one day by large-scale SSPP units.

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Jamie Whitney, Senior Editor
Military + Aerospace Electronics

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