In a groundbreaking endeavor set to revolutionize energy transmission, Japan is poised to harness solar power from space and beam it down to Earth as early as next year. Following in the footsteps of U.S. engineers who achieved a similar milestone two years prior, this advancement signals a significant stride towards a potential space-based solar power station, offering a promising solution in the global fight against climate change.

Addressing attendees at the International Conference on Energy from Space in London, Koichi Ijichi, an adviser at the Japanese research institute Japan Space Systems, unveiled Japan’s ambitious roadmap towards an orbital demonstration of a miniature space-based solar power plant. This innovative system aims to wirelessly transmit energy from low Earth orbit directly to our planet’s surface.

“At approximately 180 kilograms [400 pounds], the satellite will be relatively small, yet capable of transmitting approximately 1 kilowatt of power from an altitude of 400 kilometers [250 miles],” explained Ijichi during the conference. While this output equates to the energy needed to operate a household appliance like a small dishwasher for about an hour, the demonstration remains far from the scale required for commercial viability.

The spacecraft will rely on a compact onboard photovoltaic panel spanning 22 square feet (2 square meters) to charge its battery with solar energy. Subsequently, this accumulated power will be converted into microwaves and directed towards a designated receiving antenna stationed on Earth. Given the spacecraft’s rapid velocity of approximately 17,400 mph (28,000 km/h), the antenna elements must be strategically positioned over a span of roughly 25 miles (40 km), spaced 3 miles (5 km) apart, to facilitate efficient energy transmission.

“While the transmission process itself will be swift, lasting only a few minutes, recharging the battery post-depletion will entail several days,” elaborated Ijichi. Despite this logistical challenge, Japan’s endeavor represents a pioneering leap forward in the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions, offering hope for a greener, more environmentally-conscious future.

By Impact Lab