California university prepares to test ‘breakthrough’ space-based solar power project

Caltech's Space-based Solar Power Project (Courtesy: Caltech)

A research project at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is preparing to test, what the group calls, “breakthrough” technology capable of generating solar power in space for use on Earth.

The institution, and its Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP), recently disclosed a $100 million donation made in 2013 by Donald Bren, chairman of Irvine Company and a member of the Caltech Board of Trustees, to fund the research.


Background: Experimenting with solar in space


SSPP will soon execute a test launch of multifunctional technology-demonstrator prototypes that “collect sunlight and convert it to electrical energy, transfer energy wirelessly in free-space using radio frequency electrical power and deploy ultralight structures that will be used to integrate them.”

From left, Sergio Pellegrino, the Joyce and Kent Kresa Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Civil Engineering, Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist and co-director of the Space-Based Solar Power Project; Brigitte Bren; Donald Bren; Ali Hajimiri, the Bren Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering and co-director of the Space-Based Solar Power Project; and Richard Madonna, project manager of the Space-Based Solar Power Project.Credit: Caltech

“Donald Bren has brought the same drive and discipline that he has demonstrated with master planning communities to the Space Solar Program,” Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum said. “He has presented a remarkable technical challenge that promises a remarkable payoff for humanity: a world powered by uninterruptible renewable energy.”

The project’s first test will occur in early 2023, according to a press release.

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