The renewed interest in space has been quite exciting. But instead of national space agencies like NASA, this time it is private companies leading the charge. Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX created a revolutionary form of space travel. One that involved reusable spacecraft. On the other hand, Joe Bezos and Blue Origin have made their own mark on space travel. But before you start imagining if you would have access to TV and internet deal on Mars, take a breath.
We are living in exciting times, and space is indeed the final frontier. But traveling to distant worlds is still in the future. Whereas there is a lot of space (pun intended) to look for solutions that concern us down here on Earth. For example, the growing demand for clean and sustainable energy sources for fossil fuels. Unlike private companies, China has undertaken an ambitious solar power project. But instead of being on the ground, the country plans to launch a fleet of massive solar panels into orbit. Sounds unbelievable, right? Read on to find out more.
China’s Exciting New Energy Idea
Where billionaires debate about the right to be called an astronaut, China appears to have more meaningful objectives. The country is currently one of the few with the economic strength to undertake a new space program. And it seems China is not content with simply launching a shuttle into orbit or back. China has announced its plans to use its space program and tech advantage to tackle a very pressing need: clean, renewable, and carbon-impartial energy. How is going to do this? China aims to launch a fleet of solar panels almost a mile in length into orbit.
The idea is to launch huge “space panels” into orbit and align them in geo-synchronized orbit. Meaning the solar space farm will always remain above the same position on Earth at all times. Once charged, the panels will be used to transmit solar energy back to China to meet its growing energy needs. The project is indeed ambitious. But it could very well prove to be a game-changer in the quest for alternatives to fossil fuels.
Is Gathering Solar Energy Possible in Space?
The idea of harvesting solar energy from space is not new. It has been around for some time now. Many existing space probes and satellites rely on solar energy to power themselves indefinitely. In fact, space can often prove to be a much better setting for harvesting solar energy than on earth for several reasons.
There is no night or day in space. Meaning the solar panels can have near limitless access to sunlight if properly positioned in orbit. There are no clouds or adverse weather conditions to block sunlight either. Theoretically, a solar farm in space would generate a lot more energy than if the same farm was on earth.
Where Will The Panels Be Manufactured?
China aims to manufacture huge solar panels in a town called Chongqing. The country has already begun construction on the new Bishan Space Solar Power station. While no details as to cost are currently available, China expects the first functioning space station ready by the end of the decade. In 2030, we could very well see the launch of one of the most significant attempts to harness solar power.
When Is the Plant Expected to Come Online?
The first mega-watt level station will likely be ready for launch by 2030. However, it will take time for it to become fully operational at maximum capacity. The space power station will take a lot of time in research and development. And there will be additional challenges in transporting it from the ground to its designated place in orbit. Almost inevitably, the space power station will need precise and delicate assembly while in orbit. However, China expects the entire station to become fully functional by 2050.
What Could a Successful Demonstration Mean?
There are still many challenges that Chinese aerospace and energy engineers have to face down. Getting the panels intact into space is a big one. But so is finding an efficient and sustainable way to transmit solar energy from the station back to Earth. However, if China manages to do so by 2050, it could usher in a new era of clean energy.
China itself is one of the world’s most industrialized countries. It also has one of the world’s largest population growth. Simply by overcoming its reliance on fossil fuels, China’s carbon footprint alone will cause a massive change in global carbon levels. If the idea catches on, we may finally be able to preserve both the world as well as our tech-dependent way of life. Whether or not the idea is successful is something most of us can only hope to see by 2050. But it does have undeniable potential. And it could possibly prove the biggest step in our fight against global warming.