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AFRL, Northrop Grumman Successfully Test Space-Based Solar Panel Technology

Solar panel technology


AFRL, Northrop Grumman Successfully Test Space-Based Solar Panel Technology

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory announced that a satellite solar panel designed by Northrop Grumman to harvest energy in space to be beamed back to Earth performed successfully in lab tests. The testing was done as part of a $100 million experiment being funded by the AFRL to collect solar power from space for use on Earth, SpaceNews reported Tuesday.

The demonstration, which was conducted at Northrop’s facility in Linthicum, Maryland, clears the way for the technology to be tested in orbit as part of a military experiment planned for 2025. Space-based solar power is a key focus of AFRL, which awarded the company a $100 million contract in 2018 to develop the payload for a demonstration called “Arachne.”

AFRL explained that a “sandwich tile” designed by Northrop Grumman for this experiment successfully converted solar energy to radio frequency power. To make the harvested power useful on Earth, receiving antennas on the ground would be used to transform the RF energy into electric power.

Jay Patel, vice president of Northrop’s remote sensing programs, said the successful conversion of sunlight into RF energy represents a “significant step forward in delivering the technology building blocks to achieve the Arachne mission.” It was explained that the sandwich tile consists of two layers: a first layer consisting of photovoltaic cells to collect solar energy, and a second layer consisting of components that enable solar-to-RF conversion and beamforming.

Meanwhile, Kyle Gleichmann, the Arachne mission’s chief engineer, said it is essential that actual on-orbit tests are conducted as soon as possible to meet the nation’s future power demand. Arachne is one of a series of flight experiments planned by AFRL under the Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research project, SpaceNews further reported.

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Category: Space

Tags: Air Force Research Laboratory Aranche Jay Patel Kyle Gleichmann Northrop Grumman solar panel space SpaceNews