THE US Navy has fired a pizza box sized satellite into orbit that generated enough electricity to power an iPad.
The Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM) was launched in May 2020 and harnesses light from the sun that it converts into electricity.
This image features an artist impression of a solar satellite proposed by Japan’s space agency, Jaxa
According to CNN, the experimental tech is attached to a drone that orbits the Earth every 90 minutes.
It’s designed as a prototype for a future system to send electricity from space back to any point on Earth.
“To our knowledge, this experiment is the first test in orbit of hardware designed specifically for solar power satellites, which could play a revolutionary role in our energy future,” said Paul Jaffe, PRAM principal investigator and co-developer of the project.
“Some visions have space solar matching or exceeding the largest power plants today – multiple gigawatts – so enough for a city,” he told CNN.
The Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM) is a pizza box sized satellite launched in May 2020 that harnesses light from the sun and converts it to electricity
While the technology in its current form cannot transfer power back to Earth, future versions could do just that.
Similar technology has already been shown to work in prior experiments.
“The unique advantage the solar power satellites have over any other source of power is this global transmissibility,” Jaffe said.
“You can send power to Chicago and a fraction of a second later, if you needed, send it instead to London or Brasilia.”
PRAM measures 12×12 inches and it’s capable of producing 10 watts of energy, or enough to power an iPad.
Solar cells in space have the advantage of a more intense power source, as sunlight doesn’t have to pass through the atmosphere to reach the panel.
It’s designed as a prototype for a future system to send electricity from space back to any point on EarthCredit: us naval research laboratory
That source is also 24/7, as the panels are not subjected to the light/day cycle of those on Earth.
“We’re getting a ton of extra sunlight in space just because of that,” Jaffe said.
The project envisages an array of dozens of solar satellites that, if scaled up, has the potential to provide huge amounts of power at a moment’s notice.
The hope is that a network of the panels could provide emergency power during natural disasters.
That could have been helpful last week during a freak winter storm that knocked out power grids across Texas and left 80 people dead, Jaffe’s colleague Chris DePuma told CNN.
“My family lives in Texas and they’re all living without power right now in the middle of a cold front because the grid is overloaded,” DePuma said.
Terrifying space weapons of the future
Here are three of the scariest…
Rods from God
- A strange but utterly terrifying weapon has been dubbed “rods from the God” and is based on the concept of creating man-made meteorites that can be guided towards the enemy.
- Instead of using rocks rods the size of telephone poles are deployed.
- These would be made out of tungsten — a rare metal that can stand the intense heat generated by entering Earth’s atmosphere.
- One satellite fires the rods towards the Earth’s atmosphere while the other steers them to a target on the ground.
- Reaching speeds of 7000mph they hit the ground with the force of a small nuclear weapon — but crucially creating no radiation fall out.
- As bizarre as it sounds, a US Congressional report recently revealed the military has been pushing ahead with the kinetic space weapons.
Molten metal cannons
- This intriguing idea is being developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
- It is called the Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition or MAHEM.
- This game changing rail-gun can fire a jet of molten metal, hurled through space at several hundred miles per second by the most powerful electromagnets ever built.
- The molten metal can then morph into an aerodynamic slug during flight and pierce through another spacecraft or satellite and a munition explodes inside.
Space force ships
- Already the United States is powering head with its spacecraft, although China is busy developing one of their own.
- The top secret American XS-1 under development by DARPA.
- It can travel ten times the speed of sound and launch missiles.
- Meanwhile an unmanned craft is currently being developed in the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province, which is also known as Base 29.
“So if you had a system like this, you could redirect some power over there, and then my grandma would have heat in her house again.”
The team at PRAM are experimenting with ways to send electricity collected by their satellites back to Earth as microwaves.
Speaking to CNN, Jaffe allayed fears that the tecnology could be used to create a giant, killer space laser.
“It would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible,” he said, due to the size of antenna needed to direct the energy.
The project has been developed and funded under the Pentagon, the Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund (OECIF) and the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC.
In other news, the US Navy experimented on far-fetched technologies including a “space modification weapon”, according to leaked documents.
Military researchers are also reportedly developing a laser weapon that can generate the sound of a voice out of thin air.
And, the US Army is also testing a 50-kilowatt laser weapon that incinerates drones, helicopters, planes and missiles.
What do you make of the Navy’s scheme? Let us know in the comments!
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