The Government has given the seal of approval to a space project that could see the UK’s first power station in the cosmos wirelessly beam solar energy back down to Earth. Satellite Applications Catapult has managed to secure a £500,000 cash injection from the UK Space Agency to develop and work on technology for a future Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) system. This could one day help the UK with its clean energy shift as it scrambles to wean itself off fossil fuels, the price of which soared following Russia’s war in Ukraine, sending household bills surging.
That is because the project will pose as a new, fully renewable baseload energy technology. Renewables have repeatedly been hailed as a key way Britain can boost its energy independence and slash its reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports which are sold on volatile global markets.
Satellite Application’s SBSP project is set to wrap up in March 2023 and has three main aims.
The first is to investigate how to deliver a high-altitude demonstration of wireless power transmission and simulate the power density effects of SBSP on satellites and aircraft. Its second purpose is to research the tools needed for the servicing and assembly of its modular structures in space, and to create prototypes to support this.
The third goal is to assess the best practice engineering processes for complex energy programmes, It is seeking to identify existing standards and gaps for SBSP-relevant technologies, and will offer a regulatory roadmap for the technology.
Sam Adlen, Chief Strategy Officer at the Satellite Applications Catapult said:“This project is a vital first step in the development of a viable Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) solution. By funding SBSP, the UK Space Agency is demonstrating its commitment to this important future energy technology and that gives us a vital boost as we kick-start this work.
The funding allows us to deliver many of the critical enabling elements to ensure we get the whole solution, from technology to environmental and regulatory aspects, right the first time. As the world races to achieve net-zero, momentum is building globally and nations looking for future energy security are closely watching the UK’s progress.”
The Space Energy Initiative is another project involved in developing SBSP for the UK and is aiming to deliver about 30GW of continuous clean power from the cosmos by the mid-2040s.
Martin Soltau, Space Business Partner, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Co-Chair Space Energy Initiative, previously told Express.co.uk that this could “provide 30 percent of the UK’s (greatly increased) electricity demand”.
He said: “Once in operation, the high yield, low cost of electricity and its favourable characteristics providing both baseload and flexible generation, will make SBSP a highly profitable revenue source for the operating companies, and offering the potential of a healthy return to investors, including the Government.
“At least 143,000 job-years will be supported by a UK-based SBSP system, the equivalent of 5,700 high value jobs over a 25 year period.
“Additionally there are strong spill-over benefits in technology such as Wireless Power Transmission, autonomous assembly robotic systems, driving new industries and opportunities.”
This particular project is seeking an initial £75million investment to cover the first two years of development, building to £300million over five years.
Dr Mamatha Maheshwarappa, Payload Systems Lead at the UK Space Agency, said: “Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) has the exciting potential to provide sustainable energy, helping meet the government’s net-zero target and provide energy security.
“We’re supporting Space Based Solar Power at different stages to accelerate the technology developments. This funding will help the Satellite Applications Catapult investigate programme enablers and accelerators for the development of new sustainable energy technology from space.”
The total project value of the initiative is £620,000, funded by a £465,000 grant from the UK Space Agency and a further contribution from the Satellite Applications Catapult of £155,000.