Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Red Sun Rising - Solar Power in Space

Japan Moves to Built Solar Power Capabilities in Space

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) [Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF)] has announced plans to collect solar power in space.

The Space Solar Power System (SSPS), will position photovoltaic dishes several square miles across and would hover in geostationary orbit outside the Earth’s atmosphere as soon as 2030.

The Japanese government has recently chosen a consortium of companies and scientists charged with implementing this ambitious goal in as little as 20 years. The team, called the Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF), also includes Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Fujitsu and Sharp.

Tadashige Takiya, a spokesman at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), told reporters that the beams would then be collected by gigantic parabolic antennae, most likely located in restricted areas at sea or on dam reservoirs.

At this stage, the consortium are hoping to create a one gigawatt system, equivalent to a medium-sized nuclear power plant, that would produce electricity at eight yen (nine cents) per kilowatt-hour, six times cheaper than the current cost in the country.

Tatsuhito Fujita, one of the JAXA researchers heading the project said that within several years, “a satellite designed to test the transmission by microwave should be put into low orbit with a Japanese rocket.”

The next step, scheduled for around 2020, is to launch and test a large flexible photovoltaic structure with 10 megawatt power capacity, to be followed by a 250 megawatt prototype.

Richard L. Wottrich, Blog Editor

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