Northrop Grumman partners with USAF lab to develop space-based solar power

Stephen Kuper

Northrop Grumman is working with the US Air Force Research Laboratory on a project to rapidly infuse space technological innovations to incrementally develop component technologies needed for a prototype solar energy collection system.

Northrop Grumman partners with USAF lab to develop space-based solar power
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The project is designed to provide constant, consistent and logistically agile power to expeditionary forces operating in unimproved areas such as forward operating bases. These forces require assured power that will be transmitted via radio frequency (RF) from spacecraft.

Candace Givens, vice president of program management at Northrop Grumman, said: “Northrop Grumman has been a proud partner of US Air Force space initiatives for many decades. We are dedicated to developing and providing innovative space solar technology and hardware to ensure mission success for our expeditionary forces around the globe.”

Northrop Grumman is developing and delivering the critical hardware elements to the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to support space-based experiments for rapidly prototyping and demonstrating this leading-edge technology.

US Air Force Colonel Eric Felt, director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, said: “Energy is a strategic enabler and potential vulnerability for our nation and our Department of Defense (DoD). 

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“To ensure DoD mission success, we must have the energy we need at the right place at the right time. The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project is a very interesting concept that will enable us to capture solar energy in space and precisely beam it to where it is needed.

“SSPIDR is part of AFRL’s ‘big idea pipeline’ to ensure we continue to develop game-changing technologies for our Air Force, DoD, nation and world,” COL Felt said. 

SSPIDR will study and analyse the concept of a space-based power collection and transmission capability using lightweight, high-efficiency solar cells coupled with RF transmitters to meet the project objectives.

The project will culminate by testing the components of a space-based power collection and transmission demonstration system, capable of capturing solar energy and converting to RF energy for beaming power to the ground. 

AFRL researchers are focused on developing and demonstrating some of the key technologies necessary to integrate into a conceptual space-based power beaming system.

Northrop Grumman will partner with AFRL and has been awarded a contract valued at more than $100 million to develop and deliver the critical hardware elements to support space-based experiments into this leading-edge technology.

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