Can an army of solar panels work in space?

WASHINGTON – It is difficult to move the extension cord forward.

Military bases require a lot of power, but they are easily located in areas where there is no electricity. The more the military builds in remote areas, the less likely it is that the U.S. military will be able to build solar fields, and fossil fuels can be expensive and difficult to transport to the field.

What the military needs is a limited source of energy that can be accessed from anywhere on earth, and the Air Force Research Laboratory believes that the only solution: a set of solar-powered solar panels can collect energy in space and radiation. He came down to earth. Earth service members can access mobile power from anywhere on the planet with their mobile devices, allowing them to operate a general operating system or simply pay for radio.

It seems like a wild science fiction, but AFRL engineers say it’s possible, and they’re working on a technology show by 2024.

The initiative is called the Space Signal and Research or SSPIDR.

“SSPIDR is a kind of technology development portfolio. So, finally, our goal is for FRR [radio frequency] Radiation – Taking solar energy from the atmosphere, converting it into RF in the orbit and adjusting it to the antenna or rectangle, ”Mandy Ras, chief engineer of SSPIDR, told C4ISRNET.

AFRL believes this is possible, but getting there is a journey. SSPIDR is a method of multiplying the thinking system by multiplying several components of technology into three lines. According to Greek mythology, the flag was named after a woman who was transformed into the first spider – an orchid display in 2025.

Norrop Grumman is the primary contractor for SSPIDR. The company received a $ 100 million award for solar-to-R conversion. AFRL is working with other companies on highly efficient solar cells, moving space structures and more, says Ras.

Some of the technologies involved are already mature, he said, but they need to be looked at a little bit. In fact, one of the major challenges in realizing SSPIDR is the minimization. The final size of the system on site is still a discussion, but it largely depends on how well the laboratory can simplify the various components and integrate the overall structure into the boot load. Currently, some of the available technologies are very difficult to use for space-based missions, so one big part of AFRL’s efforts is to redesign those solutions to reduce the size and volume.

The most important aspect of any effort to collect solar energy – solar panels. Although technology is constantly evolving, there is a general link between solar panel floor space and how much power it provides. Maybe 1 square foot panel is enough to light a small traffic sign. SSPIDR requires more significant power and panels.

“When it comes to solar-RF conversion, big is always better, so the better we can get in there,” he said.

According to SSPIDR Communications Officer Rachel Delani, the purpose of the FRL is to generate 1,000 kilowatts of power – according to a study by the Navy Research Laboratory. For context, the GPS III satellite has 48 satellite wings, conducts four satellites, and together generates about 4,500 watts of power. To generate the required amount of power engineers, SSPIDR must increase the efficiency of the solar panel and the scope of the negotiations.

To make that possible, AFRL wants to use flexible solar panels that can be integrated into a relatively small charge load and then opened once orbit. That is not an unusual approach for satellites, but the scale of SSPIDR solar negotiations can be fictional.

AFRL recently opened a new state-of-the-art laboratory in Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, to help engineers develop solar panels that are not only sufficient to generate 1,000 kilowatts, but are also effective for launching. The new facility allows the team to deploy a full solar array to compensate for gravity, making it look like a zero-gravity area where the satellite operates. This allows AFRL to build the entire satellite with light and weak materials. This works well in orbit under the gravity, but in an orbit.

Important Space Saving is a new “sandwich panel” designed by AFRL that collects both solar energy and converts it into RF.

“One side is between the sun, the other side RIFI, and magic,” he explained. And we are trying to make it as thin and light as possible.

It is the rectangle that takes the RDF signal from space and converts it back into energy. That technology is incredibly flexible, says Ras. Large retina can be installed in each building, depending on the future, providing a continuous source of energy. But it can also be used in very small quantities. Probably, he explained, my radio, a small retina that allows them to charge their radios and other electronic devices while on the field, could be built in a military tent. AFRL even discussed a design that looked like a simple umbrella that could be carried in the field: simply turn it on and there is power.

Anyone on the beam can have that power if they have the right equipment – no cables needed. And the pillar is huge. The final size will depend on the final product AFRL can be developed, but now engineers are expecting a 10-kilometer cover. And that’s just one satellite. AFRL estimates a total of 12 Scorpio satellites in the Earth’s orbit around the planet.

AFRL has partnered with the Navy Research Laboratory on a similar project. The Navy Research Laboratory sent its own display project: a photovoltaic radio-frequency antenna module, or PRAM – to the site of a hidden X-37B spacecraft in May 2020. .

The FRAL’s own display project, ARKN, really does that by mirroring the RFA. The test will test the first Northprop Grumman sandwich panel in space. The first panel is expected to be presented in the 2024 budget, starting later that year or early 2025.

Nathan Strot covers space, manpower and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.


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