Caltech’s Orbiting Magic Carpets – Giving Light to the World
It’s the stuff of folklore and fairy tales. Aladdin’s Lamp wishes and the magic carpet rides. But this innovation R&D is reality based on a beautiful fantasy with a global climate need purpose. California Institute of Technology’s orbiting magic carpets are designed to absorb energy from the sun and beam it back to earth. This R&D project is anything but fantasia. In partnership with Northrup, three Caltech Professors, some also are research scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, are developing key components for the magic carpets. Northrup is providing $17.5 million in funding for 3 years. Their concept is to precisely beam back solar energy from orbiting “carpets” to targets in need of electricity globally, like the third world.. The solar energy system would be the largest structure ever built in the history of space.
Aladdin’s 2500 Flying Carpets
Here’s the plan. Rocket-launch 2500 highly engineered, solar energy catching carpets. Each the size of 2/3rds of a football field. Put them into orbit in a very tight formation. They cover 3.5 square miles or about 1,670 football fields, while an inch thick. They capture the sun’s energy and beam it back to earth to make electricity. The project is officially called Space Solar Power Initiative, SSPI. The magic carpets beam the energy for electricity to exactly where it’s needed. There are top research scientists pursuing this.
Intergalactic Need to Turn the Lights On
According to the United Nations, 25% of the world population doesn’t have access to reliable electricity. Of that number, 50% have no electricity. Researchers believe that for many, orbiting solar panels could be the fix. This system acts like mobile phones. It uses ground stations that would receive power from spacecraft, convert it to electricity and then transmit it to local communities.
Like Your Cell Phone
In many areas of the third world, for telephony there are no land lines. Wireless is easier and cheaper. The same can work for electricity. In places with no power plants and transmission lines, it’s a lot easier to install ground stations to receive energy from spacecraft, convert it to electricity and transmit it to communities. The precision in the SSPI system rests on “phased array”, a technology now used in radar. It controls the timing and pattern in which each vehicle solar tile switches its antenna on. By that process, engineers can generate electromagnetic waves travelling in targeted directions. And those directions can be changed in fractions of a second.
This gives new life to Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride. This time it might light up the world.