For the first time ever, a space solar power satellite has successfully beamed energy back to Earth. The experiment was run by the California Institute of Technology’s (Caltech) Space Solar Power Project (SSPP). The satellite, named SSPD, was launched into orbit in January 2023 and is equipped with a solar panel that can convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity is then converted into microwaves and beamed back to Earth.
The project uses an array of microwave panels called Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment (MAPLE) and the beam beam was powerful enought to light a pair of LEDs.
“Through the experiments we have run so far, we received confirmation that MAPLE can transmit power successfully to receivers in space,” Co-Director of the Space-Based Solar Power Project, Dr. Ali Hajimiri, said in a statement. “We have also been able to program the array to direct its energy toward Earth, which we detected here at Caltech. We had, of course, tested it on Earth, but now we know that it can survive the trip to space and operate there.”