Caltech and Grumman partner on Space Based Solar Power Initiative

Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI) is a multi-year research in the field of Space Solar Power Initiative conducted by Caltech team in collaboration with Northrop Grumman (NG) Aerospace and Mission Systems division.

SSPI approach:
• Enabling technologies developed at Caltech
• Ultra-light deployable space structures
• High efficiency ultra-light photovoltaic (PV)
• Phased Array and Power Transmission
• Integration of concentrating PV, radiators, MW power conversion and antennas in single cell unit
• Localized electronics and control for system robustness, electronic beam steering
• Identical spacecraft flying in formation
• Target is specific power over 2000 Watts per kilogram. This would cost competitive with ground-based power

NASA Studies

In 2017, NASA funded five academic efforts to see if space-based solar power could be produced economically.

NASA selected five new research proposals to understand the effective drivers of investments in the global space economy, encouraging non-traditional companies, as well as traditional aerospace companies, to look beyond satellites for new opportunities in commercial space development.

Planetary Resource Engineering LLC – studying asteroid and lunar based resources for lowering the cost
MIT – developing a Commercial Space Technology Roadmap
Vision Foresight Strategy LLC (Honolulu) – modeling the impact of space weather
Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado) examining 21st Century Trends in Space-Based Solar Power Generation and Storage.
University of Illinois, Urbana (Urbana, Illinois) studies “An Integrated Framework and Tool for Effective Participation of Commercial Enterprise in Space Development.”

There is a 56 page report on the various space mission applications for better space based solar power.

Current state of the Art – Megaflex, Roll-out array and stretched lens

MegaFex has 350 kilowatt array

The Megaflex array has 350 kilowatt space based solar power arrays.

ROSA – Roll out solar array

In June 2017, there was a week of successful science operations on the experiment for the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA). They could not retract and latch the array. NASA jettisoned ROSA directly from its current location at the end of the space station’s robotic arm, where it was fully deployed in a normal configuration. The original plan called for ROSA to be stored back inside the trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon which is detached and burned up in the atmosphere during Dragon reentry. ROSA is an experiment to test a new type of solar panel that rolls open in space and is more compact than current rigid panel designs.