Space

Shedding of light on space solar satellite by the military spaceplane experiment

On May 17, there was an experiment to launch the US Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-6. The space plane was developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington. It’s hardware is known as the Photovoltaic Radio-Frequency Antenna Module (PRAM). 

It is due to the effort of the NRL to develop “sandwich” modules that PRAM was produced. PRAM has a Photovoltaic panel for receiving solar energy, and in the centre, there are electronics that help in converting the direct current to radio frequency signals. On the other side, there is an antenna for beaming power away. 

“The PRAM aboard X-37B is not indicating the real power-beaming connection,” said Paul Jaffe, the NRL’s Innovation Power Beaming and Space Solar Portfolio lead

However, the 30-centimeter module is devoted in gauging its energy-transformation capability and the thermal conduction of the gadget in Earth Orbit. Even if the PRAM does produce RF energy, the energy does not move to the antenna. This is because of the likelihood for interference with various payloads aboard X-37B. 

Data deliveries

“We are examining a functional component that would send from space direct to Earth, and would be part of the solar power satellite,” Jaffe said. “We expect to publish something in some months after getting some data and have an opportunity of analysing that information.” He added. 

Chris DePuma, who is the PRAM program manager and NRL electronics engineer, said that there would frequent data deliveries from the vehicle hosting PRAM. “The main benefit of their X-37B platform is that we need not have a communication system. They will gather our information in a package and let us analyse it.”

After getting the PRAM results, the next course of action would be to create a functional system on a devoted spacecraft to examine the transference of energy back to Earth that could help to remote power installations such as disaster response areas and forward operating bases. 

Hitting the baseline

NRL conducted a study in October 2019 to explore how to provide power to remote installations and military through solar energy. The study concluded that there is unresolved legal, economic, political, technological, organizational, schedule, and operational problems inherent in the generation of an adaptable space solar potentiality. 

Due to the possible game-changing nature associated with space solar power tellurian applications, the team conducting the sturdy advocated investments in various crucial areas with the most preferred been power beaming technology. 

About the author

Sarah Lacy

Sarah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is a reporter covering Amazon. She previously covered tech and transportation, and she broke stories on Uber's finances, self-driving car program, and cultural crisis. Before that, she covered cybersecurity in finance. Sarah's work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Politico, and the Houston Chronicle.
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