The Sun is a very powerful, clean and convenient source of power, particularly for satellites. The only thing needed is a means to convert the energy contained in the Sun’s radiation – mainly light and ultraviolet rays – into electrical power. The most efficient way to achieve this today is by using panels composed of semiconductor photovoltaic cells. ‘Solar panels’, as they are usually called, are now quite a common sight here on Earth, but they were first used in space in 1958 to power the ‘Vanguard’ satellite. Principles of solar satellites
In photovoltaic cells, such as the Hubble Space Telescope silicon solar cell shown here, the basic materials, the doping and the shape of the junction are chosen in such a way as to increase their capability of transforming the light energy into electrical energy. Each cell is capable of producing a small amount of current at a relatively low voltage, more or less like a common pen-light battery. Many of them have to be combined in series to produce the amount of electric power needed for a satellite to function. A silicon solar cell from the Hubble Space Telescope has an operating efficiency of about 14%. Solar power satellites collect solar energy so that it can be distributed for use all over the earth. With this amazing technology, space-based solar power is the future of power generation. Solar power satellites, otherwise known as powersats, orbit the earth and are designed to capture solar energy and transmit that energy to receiving stations that are situated thousands of miles from each other on the surface of the earth. These satellites are made up of a number of modules outfitted with light weight photovoltaic solar panels. Benefits of solar satellites
It is clean, it is green, and it is safe. Collecting solar power in space is also more efficient than collecting solar power on the surface of the earth for many reasons. Space-based solar power is a method of collection...