Not every millionaire with an interest in Space is a rocket builder. You’ve probably heard of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson, whose businesses have recently sent people to the farthest reaches of the universe. However, you may be unaware of Yuri Milner, a Russian-born tech investor who is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the quest for extraterrestrial life. Or Donald Bren, who may have sparked a revolution in off-Earth energy.
The Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP) was formed in 2013 by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, and it is creating technology to capture solar energy in orbit and beam it to Earth for use here. According to project team members, such technology would be game-changing if completely realised and implemented on a large scale. Solar energy is the most abundant energy source on the planet.
At the earth’s surface, however, sunlight is sporadic. Because sunlight shines continuously in orbit, this ambitious project is a game-changing solution to large-scale solar energy harvesting for the Earth that eliminates intermittency and the requirement for energy storage. The SSPP began operations about a decade ago, thanks to a $100 million anonymous grant.Caltech stated on Tuesday that the money came from Bren and his wife, Brigitte. Bren, a real estate mogul who chairs the Irvine Co., said, “I have been a student researching the possible applications of Space-based solar energy for many years. My interest in supporting the world-class scientists at Caltech is driven by my belief in harnessing the natural power of the sun for the benefit of everyone.”
The SSPP has created technology-demonstrating prototypes that convert sunlight into radio-frequency microwave energy, which is subsequently wirelessly transmitted in a steerable beam. Caltech executives stated in a statement that the project expects to conduct its first Space test of such hardware in early 2023. The Caltech group isn’t the only one attempting to establish Space-based solar power.