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The Race To Construct The First Solar Space Station

Tsvetana Paraskova

China aims to turn the dream of science fiction writer Isaac Asimov into reality by building a solar power station in space by 2035, according to Chinese researchers.

Scientists at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) plan to build a solar power station in space that would capture solar energy from the Sun and beam it wirelessly to the Earth via lasers or microwaves, China’s news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.  

“We hope to strengthen international cooperation and make scientific and technological breakthroughs so that humankind can achieve the dream of limitless clean energy at an early date,” Xinahua quoted CAST research fellow with the space solar station program, Wang Li, as saying at a Chinese-Russian engineering event in China last week.

According to the Chinese scientist, solar energy in the space will be more efficient and sustainable than fossil fuels in powering satellites and isolated or disaster-hit regions on earth.

The idea of a solar power station in space was first proposed in a short story Asimov published in the 1940s, and despite decades of research, the challenges of installing solar panels in space and developing efficient wireless energy transmission technology have hindered major breakthroughs. 

China has invested US$28.4 million (200 million Chinese yuan) in the construction of a test base in Chongqing in the southwest to test its developments.

Earlier this year, Chinese scientists revealed plans to build and launch in orbit a space solar station that could capture the Sun’s rays 24/7.

China has already started to build an early experimental space power plant in the city of Chongqing.             

China is not the only country studying the potential of harnessing the power of the Sun in space.

Caltech, for example, has its Space Solar Power Project, which has researched the use of ultralight, foldable, 2D integrated elements. Caltech has developed a prototype which collects sunlight, converts it to RF electrical power, and wirelessly transmits that power in a steerable beam.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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