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AFRL Successfully Demonstrates Game-Changing Space Solar Power System

This year will be remembered for many trailblazing achievements related to space, including the first private trips to space, and the launch of the James Webb telescope. Behind the scenes, another major accomplishment is brewing: space solar power is about to completely transform energy systems.
Revolutionary sandwich tiles will collect solar power and convert it into radio frequency 6 photos
AFRL Space Solar Power ProjectAFRL Space Solar Power ProjectAFRL Space Solar Power ProjectAFRL Space Solar Power ProjectAFRL Space Solar Power Project
Not that many people remember that the apparently ordinary GPS we all use today started out as a groundbreaking military technology. The same type of revolution could soon take place, thanks to a complex project developed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), together with Northrup Grumman.

Back in 2019, AFRL awarded the tech company a $100 million contract, for developing the key components of a space solar power system. The Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project will use a spacecraft called Arachne, to deliver a game-changing experiment into space. Called Space Solar Power RF Integrated Tile Experiment (SSPRITE), this structure will feature a multitude of “sandwich tiles” that collect solar power and convert it to radio frequency (RF).

The RF is then beamed to a ground-based receiving station. Next, a rectifying antenna collects the RF and converts it into usable power, ready to be sent to U.S. troops. This has a huge strategic importance, since power delivered to troops via convoys or supply lines is often targeted by the enemy.

This innovative sandwich tile collects, converts and beams the power to the ground by using just one compact component. It’s comprised of two layers, one of which acts as a solar panel, and the other one as RF converter.

These key components were recently demonstrated by Northrup Grumman and AFRL. A solar simulator was used to mimic the sun, and it was so intense, that all of those who attended had to view the process on monitors, behind an industrial-grade plastic barrier. The successful conversion of the solar power into RF made everyone cheer.

This successful demonstration is another major step in AFRL’s space solar power project. Arachne is expected to launch this precious payload for the first time in 2025.



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