Researchers Aim to Accelerate Delivery of Space-Based Solar Power to Earth

Photovoltaic cells will be used to make usable energy for future space vehicles


Researchers at Northumbria University are studying ways of producing wireless electricity from space to Earth by harvesting the Sun’s energy.

U.S.-based aerospace, defense, and information security organization Lockheed Martin Corporation recently announced an investment of £150,000 (~$183,802) in the university’s project that aims to accelerate the delivery of space-based solar power.

The research is expected to bring a new source of zero-carbon power to connect homes and businesses without the need for large-scale land-based infrastructure.

Using the investment, the experts will combine scientific findings with technology and use specialized photovoltaic cells to collect and convert laser power into usable power that is crucial for future space and lunar vehicles.

Chief Executive of Lockheed Martin UK Paul Livingston said, “Our collaboration with Northumbria University will advance the use of space-based solar power for satellites, space vehicles, and potentially useable power back on earth.”

The project is an extension of the partnership between Lockheed Martin and Northumbria University, wherein a joint investment of £630,000 (~$771,970) was announced in 2022 to support research and development in space technologies being studied in the United Kingdom, including solar physics.

Lockheed Martin is initially set to invest in two strategic projects including finding new ways to transmit power to enable wireless charging of satellites, and for new forms of inter-satellite communications, while it will also sponsor two PhDs in solar physics.

Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor for Engineering and Environment at Northumbria University  John Woodward said, “Northumbria University is a UK front-runner in research into photovoltaics and solar energy and our reputation for world-leading research in space and satellite technologies has grown exponentially in recent years. This exciting project with Lockheed Martin combines these areas of excellence and will enable us to innovate further to find new ways to generate and store renewable energy.”

The university, along with the Office for Students, and the UK Space Agency are funding research and studies in space technologies.

In a first, the UK government announced a £3 million (~$4 million) grant last year for space-based solar projects aimed at collecting the sun’s energy using solar panels orbiting the earth.

In October 2022, the European Space Agency unveiled a plan to harvest the sun’s energy in outer space and beam it back onto earth. The technology, which is still in its nascent stage, aims to develop a 15km²-long space-based solar power structure orbiting 35,786 km above the earth to create a renewable baseload capacity similar to that of nuclear power plants.