But what will be the use of this solar power plant installed… at an altitude of 530 km in space?

Samir Rahmoun

February 06, 2023 at 5:30 p.m.


caltech solar panels space © © Caltech

© Caltech

Caltech University has just launched a grandiose project with the deployment of photovoltaic panels 530 kilometers above our heads.

This project is funded by the Defense Advances Research Project Agency (DARPA), the research agency of the United States Department of Defense. It should make it possible to gather information on the large-scale use of solar panels in space for the purpose of energy production.

32 photovoltaic cells under test

It’s a great adventure that began at the beginning of 2023 with the launch of the Space Solar Power Demonstrator prototype, 530 kilometers above the Earth. The latter represents 50 kilograms of material, sent into space via SpaceX’s Transporter-6 mission.

3 different technologies will be tested using this demonstrator:

  • a structure of about 2 meters by 2 meters, the deployment of which will ensure the support of a solar power plant in space
  • different types of photovoltaic cells (32 in total) which will be tested in order to select the most capable of ensuring the conversion of the sun’s energy into a space environment
  • an array of flexible and lightweight energy emitters

How much energy is there?

The objective of the research team is to determine which technology can allow the putting into orbit of photovoltaic panels that are both efficient, while avoiding being heavy and bulky like those installed on the ground on planet Earth.

Similarly, the functionality of energy transmitters will be able to be evaluated in the different environments they will encounter over time. As for the analysis of the 32 forms of photovoltaic cells, it should, according to the scientists, last about 6 months.

Fundamental experiments, whereas currently, the transmission of energy over such distances gives weak results. Eventually, developing solar panels in space would make it possible to produce energy without having to endure the day-night cycle, seasonal changes and weather vagaries. To date, despite the growth of the renewable sector, photovoltaic energy still represents only 4% of global consumption.

Source : Caltech, France Info

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