The Economist on Space Solar Power

A recent article in The Economist, 23 items of vital vocabulary you’ll need to know in 2023, was a fascinating list of new and not-so-new science and technology-related words / concepts that are starting to bubble up into everyday news stories and conversations. (If you have a free or paid account on The Economist website, or want to sign up for one, you can read or listen to the article linked above.)

The European Space Agency’s SOLARIS Space-based Solar Power Preparatory Programme, as mentioned in the referenced article

In good company with other vital new vocabulary such as passkeys and post-quantum cryptography, I am happy to note that Space Solar Power has been included near the bottom of the list. It’s exciting to see The Economist authors of this article state that the field of space solar power “… is experiencing a new dawn.”

Space solar power
The idea of capturing energy in space using huge solar arrays attached to orbiting satellites, and then beaming it down to Earth as microwaves, has been around since Isaac Asimov proposed it in a science-fiction story in 1941. But the sums have never added up: launching things into space simply costs too much. That could change if launch costs fall far enough, or if new space-based manufacturing techniques emerge, such as mining asteroids for raw materials. And in a high enough orbit, a solar-power satellite could stay in sunlight around the clock, providing a clean, reliable source of power. The European Space Agency sponsored a ground-based demonstration in Germany in 2022 as part of a proposed scheme called Solaris. America, Britain, China and Japan are also funding research in the field, which is experiencing a new dawn.

By Martin Adams, Aryn Braun, Joel Budd, Tom Standage and Vijay Vaitheeswaran

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