Sky’s no limit: New Mexico’s role in space-based solar power – KRQE News 13

3 minutes, 43 seconds Read

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) –Scientists have been sounding the alarm on climate change for years now. To maximize the yield of solar energy, they are now looking 250 miles above Earth for a technology that could revolutionize the way people harness the sun’s power.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between the years 2030 and 2050, nearly 250,000 deaths are expected to be caused by climate change. In response, private and governmental agencies are working to develop cleaner energy solutions like wind and solar.

One of the challenges that has persisted with solar energy is well beyond our control: weather and the Earth’s rotation. That’s why the concept of space-based solar power is so tantalizing to industry experts like Peter Garretson, a fellow in defense studies with the American Foreign Policy Council.

“And then imagine that you had an almost magical ability to put that power wherever in the United States you needed to, wherever the load was peaking or sun setting. And imagine that that solar cell wasn’t just, you know, for some small facility, but could power larger cities,” said Garretson.

The technology could be a game changer not just for cleaner energy on Earth, but the advancement of space exploration entirely. While there are a number of concepts in development at this point, the general nuts and bolts of the processes are the same. First, a large-scale solar array captures solar energy while in low-Earth orbit. That energy is then converted into either radio frequencies or microwaves and transmitted down to Earth. A rectenna will then receive the signal, which will be converted into electricity. Finally, space-based solar power makes its way into your business or home.

Here in the growing space valley, Newspace Nexus is working to bring together a consortium of stakeholders in space-based solar power, recognizing the need to bring the concept to reality. “We’re here, we’re trying to do what we can to support the growth of the space industry for, you know, our vision for new Space Nexus is that we’re growing the space industry from New Mexico for the nation,” said Casey Anglada DeRaad, CEO of New Space New Mexico.

However, a recent study on the feasibility of the technology conducted by NASA wasn’t all that promising. Essentially, the NASA reports examined the economic viability of space-based solar power with a target of 2050 to bring the technology to orbit. Based on their findings, two front-runner designs show a cost of 30 to 80 times higher than Earth-bound solar collection. As Garretson said, the report’s data didn’t encompass a large enough swath of stakeholders. Part of the problem in Garretson’s eyes is the agency’s current focus which is working on manned missions to the moon and to Mars.

Another element proponents of the technology must contend with is getting the collectors in orbit. According to NASA’s report, the solar panels in this design alone are roughly three thousand times larger than the International Space Station. In order to get the vessel in orbit, it must be taken up in pieces by hitching a ride on SpaceX’s forthcoming Starship and then assembled above the planet.

While Deraad and Garretson don’t align with everything in NASA’s report, they all agree that the best path forward is a collaboration with the federal agency and private companies like Newsapce Ignitor.

Garretson also stresses the path forward means so much more than just clean energy on Earth. “If you can build a solar power satellite, you can build very large space stations, you can build very large spaceships that travel to Mars. You can build, probes that can go interstellar. There are all kinds of exciting things that happen when you start to be able to build large structures in space,” said Garretson.

According to AFRL, they too have developed what’s called a “sandwich panel” that they hope to take to orbital trials in 2025.

About New Mexico Frontiers

New Mexico is the doorway to the new frontier – leading the way into the future of Aerospace, Bio-science, Renewable Energy, Digital Media and Film, Advanced Manufacturing, and so much more. Join us as Chad Brummett and New Mexico Frontiers profile the movers and shakers from our state who are changing the world.

‘New Mexico Frontiers’ celebrates the enterprising spirit of the state’s businesses, scientists, creators, and entrepreneurs.

This post was originally published on 3rd party site mentioned in the title of this site

Similar Posts