Northrop Grumman Successfully Demonstrates Transmission of Directed RF Energy for Space Solar Power

Northrop Grumman Successfully Demonstrates Transmission of Directed RF Energy for Space Solar Power

In the 1940s, science fiction author Isaac Asimov theorized the concept of collecting the sun’s energy in space, then beaming that energy down to Earth. Today, Northrop Grumman’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project team is making that science fiction a reality with steady progress towards transmitting solar energy from space to anywhere on Earth. SSPIDR technology can be especially useful in forward operating and contested areas where warfighters need steady power to maintain mission operations.

Harnessing solar power for use on Earth has enormous potential for communities where energy is scarce. For example, when military personnel establish a forward operating base one of the most dangerous parts of the ground operation is getting power. Convoys and supply lines, which are major targets for adversaries, are the usual methods to supply power. However, solar-powered beaming energy technology can provide constant, consistent and logistically agile power to expeditionary forces operating in hard-to-reach areas – assuring power is transmitted via radio frequency (RF) from space and reducing reliance on fuel convoys and other energy generation methods.

Utilizing one of the company’s test chambers specifically designed for RF at its Baltimore manufacturing and test campus, the SSPIDR team successfully demonstrated the transmission of directed RF energy to a ground-based rectifying antenna (rectenna) - a critical milestone in the development of this pioneering technology. In this demonstration, engineers steered RF energy to rectenna hardware, energizing a series of lights that indicated the successful formation of an energy beam and conversion to useful electrical current.

As part of this laboratory demonstration, engineers also showcased the ability to beam RF energy to multiple fixed points by electronically steering and controlling the power beam using Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) capabilities.

“Space solar power beaming has the potential to provide energy anywhere on Earth at any time, making consistent and reliable energy available to remote locations when it's needed most,” said Tara Theret, SSPIDR program director, Northrop Grumman. “With this demonstration, we are one step closer to taking this technology out of the lab and putting it in orbit.”

As ambitious as it is revolutionary, the SSPIDR Project which is under contracted development partnership with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) will utilize on-orbit, highly-efficient photovoltaic cells to collect solar energy. This solar energy will then be converted into RF energy and beamed to a receiving station on Earth — like a power plant, but for space solar energy — where it would be converted to usable energy.

Having successfully demonstrated the conversion of solar energy to transmittable RF energy and wireless beaming capabilities in a laboratory environment, engineers are continuing to fine-tune the array to strengthen beam steering capabilities.

What has for decades been a science fiction concept will soon be on its way to a space-based demonstration with AFRL’s anticipated mission launch in 2025.

Click here to learn more about Northrop Grumman on SatNow.

Publisher: SatNow

GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013