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As the Department of Defense (DoD) presses forward with energy security investments, solar power has already been proven in places like Hawaii and California. With multiple, potentially hidden receivers, space solar power could ease logistics for DoD's deployed troops and remote bases. Jaffe sometimes gets asked about the efficiency of such a system, but the most important metric is the power cost per pound.
Additionally, "One of our key, unprecedented contributions has been testing under space-like conditions." Using a specialized vacuum chamber at another facility would have been too expensive, so in typical NRL spirit, Jaffe built one himself.
Jaffe says most solar panels orbiting with today's satellites are never tested in space-like conditions because the technology is already mature. SPS-ALPHA concept for space solar power: reflectors concentrate sunlight onto module array.
Jaffe and Nurnberger identify the antenna's radiation pattern in one very unique room at NRL, an anechoic chamber. Except for one part of the floor, the chamber is completely covered in stalactite-like blue foam. One of the primary objections to space solar power is the idea of an antenna shooting a concentrated beam of energy through our atmosphere. From Jaffe's perspective as an engineer, however, "The most sobering thing about all of this is scale." He imagines a one kilometer array of modules-not to mention the auxiliary sun reflectors.
NRL and others have also proposed using similar technology, but instead of deploying it to space, setting it up at a very high altitude in the stratosphere. The International Academy of Astronautics recently predicted space solar power could be viable within the next 30 years.
Jaffe's aware of two other projects seeking to turn theory into reality: "Prior to this prototyping effort, there had been two groups that made meaningful sandwich modules, both of them were in Japan. Society has yet to decide if we'll invest in space solar, but Jaffe's research informs the economic analysis and has relevance for many other types of projects. Other applications include the conversion of direct current to radiofrequency, microwave power beaming (including as first demonstrated in 1964 to power an aircraft), satellite propulsion, and thermal management architecture (the step module). One of the exciting things about working at a place like NRL is seeing innumerable ideas before the wheat has been separated from the chaff.
Comment policy: We hope to receive submissions from all viewpoints, but we ask that all participants agree to the Department of Defense Social Media User Agreement. You wonder and ask how they are able to deal with costs of living in such an ostentatious house. What if you could launch the hundreds of modules for such a satellite, then use robots to assemble the entire array in space? Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), some of the brightest and most daring minds in satellites, space robotics, and radiofrequency are building the technologies that could lead to such an achievement.
Paul Jaffe, a spacecraft engineer at NRL, has built and tested a module to capture and transmit solar power.


And ideally, a solar power satellite would provide power that was cost-competitive to what was locally available: about 10 cents per kilowatt hour in many places. In both designs, one side receives solar energy with a photovoltaic panel, electronics in the middle convert that direct current to a radiofrequency, and the other side has an antenna to beam power away.
He also has a "novel approach to solving the thermal problem, using the 'step' module." The step module design, now in the patent process, opens up the sandwich to look more like a zig-zag. In it, Jaffe can expose the module to the simulated extreme cold of space and concentrated solar intensities (mimicked by turning on two powerful xenon lamps in the same spectrum as the sun). The anechoic chamber allows researchers to measure how an antenna radiates energy into free space.
But we already use radiofrequency and microwaves to send smaller amounts of energy all the time.
But one challenge to finding a sponsor is that the project cuts across many different federal agencies. In 2009, the California utility company, PG&E, committed to buying such power from Solaren by 2016. As mentioned, he's improved testing for space hardware, particularly for that designed to perform under concentrated sunlight. It's visionaries like Jaffe, with boldness and ingenuity, who will inform the naval fleets of the future. Naval Research Laboratory is the Navy's full-spectrum corporate laboratory, conducting a broadly based multidisciplinary program of scientific research and advanced technological development. He holds a module he designed for space solar power in front of the customized vacuum chamber used to test it.
Even Jaffe admits the idea of an orbiting solar array that would beam energy to our planet seems kind of crazy. Marine Corps has successfully used solar panels at Experimental Forward Operating Bases in the Middle East and for humanitarian assistance.
This allows heat to radiate more efficiently, so the module can receive greater concentrations of sunlight without overheating. By hooking the module up to a tangle of red and blue wires, he measures how well it radiates heat.
And we've actually gotten a couple inquiries from people who may want to use this." As an example, he's had to modify how he uses the lamps because they don't have uniform intensity, which creates hotspots on the modules. One wall, instead of being flat, is pushed out into a sideways pyramid that extends the length of the room to 125 feet.
Second, using microwaves to send energy may be less objectionable than the higher power density required for lasers.
It stretches a little longer than an American football field; the array Jaffe is talking about would span nine.
The overall effect is surreal, something out of a funhouse, and almost makes the uninitiated lose balance.


Third, sending the energy on a lower frequency increases the size of the antenna and receiver, but decreases the concentration of power. NRL has served the Navy and the nation for over 90 years and continues to meet the complex technological challenges of today's world.
For more information, visit the NRL homepage or join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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Unlike the active design, the passive solar thermal building design is cheaper for it does not use any mechanical systems to collect the solar energy. Instead of using heaters during the cold or winter season; the orientation, fixtures and house materials can create the perfect warm comfortable atmosphere. We'll never share your info.Login or RegisterSubscribeEnter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.



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