about the episode
Can we generate solar power in space, in places where sunlight can always reach? With this idea in mind, Caltech’s first experimental satellite launched in January and they have good news: They succeeded.
The satellite was to collect solar energy 500 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, convert it into electricity and then re-emit it as electromagnetic radiation. Why from space itself: The yield should be much higher there, because you don’t experience the weather or the rhythm of day and night.
By the way, the whole project is not easy. One of the many challenges: Solar cell panels have to be very light and foldable. Otherwise, they wouldn’t fit in a rocket, or it would take a lot of fuel to get them there.
The researchers have now shown that the test setup survived launch and flight well and is able to capture energy and send a little bit of it very accurately, without much loss, to nearby receivers and even to a receiver on the ground.
Several other tests should follow, including to see which solar cells perform best in this situation. In addition to the Caltech team, Chinese researchers and the ESA space agency are also looking into whether and how this technology has a future.
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