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Renewable Vibes > News > Sustainable Living > Orbital Composites and Virtus Solis collaborate on a space mission to harness solar power.

Orbital Composites and Virtus Solis collaborate on a space mission to harness solar power.

Advanced manufacturing startup Orbital Composites is partnering with Virtus Solis Technologies to carry out a space-based solar power demonstration by 2027. This demonstration will serve as a precursor to a “megawatt-class” solar power installation in space by 2030, potentially ushering in a new era of renewable energy.

Space-based solar power (SBSP) is not a novel concept. The sun emits an abundance of energy that exceeds human consumption on Earth, with much of it being reflected back into space. Unlike solar power collected on the planet’s surface, which is subject to limitations such as the day-night cycle and land use, SBSP proponents argue that it can provide continuous and plentiful energy collection.

The press release from Orbital Composites and Virtus Solis Technologies indicates that they have their work cut out for them. Solar panels designed for space are costly, and the space-based power plant must ultimately collect and transmit enough energy to be economically viable. The plan not only aims to demonstrate solar energy transmission but also showcases Orbital’s robotic in-space assembly capabilities, which present their own set of challenges.

However, the potential benefits of this endeavor are compelling, as it could unlock a new source of abundant, clean energy for Earth. Under the pilot program, Virtus would deploy its 1.65-meter solar tiles in a medium Earth orbit, which would then be robotically assembled into large arrays. The companies are targeting a highly elliptical orbit known as a Molniya orbit, ensuring that at least one satellite remains in view of a ground station at all times.

Once the solar power is collected, the spacecraft would convert it into microwaves, which would be transmitted to the ground. On the ground, these microwaves would be converted back into electricity and made available for transmission into the power grid or for direct use.

In a press release, the companies stated, “This collaboration is not just a milestone in renewable energy development; it’s a commitment to leveraging space technology for Earth’s sustainable future. The success of the pilot plant will validate the practicality of SBSP as a reliable and perpetual energy source.”

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