When Science Fiction Becomes Reality - Pager Power
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When Science Fiction Becomes Reality

When Science Fiction Becomes Reality
April 16, 2024 Ricky Tso

Human history is full of instances where what was once considered science fiction eventually materialised as an invaluable invention. As Albert Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” One idea that stands at the crossroads of science fiction and scientific viability is Space-Based Solar Power.

Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP)

Space-Based Solar Power, or SBSP, is a concept about capturing solar energy in space and transferring it back to the Earth. While this concept may appear too fictional, its history tells a different story. The SBSP theory was developed in the 1970s through a collaboration project between NASA and the US Department of Energy. Since then, this concept has seen minimal modification. [1]

The idea of SBSP is very similar to a space-based telecommunication system. A large-scale satellite featuring multiple solar reflectors is positioned into the high earth orbit by rocket launches. The solar reflectors capture the sunlight and concentrate the radiation onto solar panels in the centre of the satellite. The energy gathered from the solar panel is used to power a transmitter, which produces a high-frequency radio wave and beams the energy to a ground station on the Earth. The picture below illustrates this concept:

Figure 1: Stages of Space-Based Solar Power. [2] 

SBSP Advantages

SBSP offers the potential to generate electricity consistently. As the satellite orbits above the atmosphere, SBSP is unlikely to be disturbed by weather conditions. This concept is very appealing to countries like the UK, where the performance of ground-based solar panels is often disrupted by cloudy weather.

Another significant advantage of SBSP lies in its redirect ability. Unlike ground-based solar installations, SBSP satellites can adjust their orientation to optimise energy generation. SBSP can also target specific geographic locations or areas with high energy demand, providing flexibility in energy distribution, which unlocks economic opportunities in remote or underserved regions where traditional energy infrastructure may be limited.

Furthermore, SBSP could minimise its environmental footprint compared to traditional energy sources. By harnessing solar energy directly in space, SBSP emits little pollutants into the atmosphere.

SBSP Disadvantages

One notable disadvantage of SBSP is the cost of launching the necessary infrastructure. While recent advancements in space technology have hugely reduced launch costs, launching a large-scale SBSP system in space would still require a significant financial investment.


Figure 2: Artistic impression of the laser broom. [3]

Another concern with SBSP is the potential for the technology to be weaponised. While SBSP aims to harness solar energy for peaceful purposes, the transmitter could be converted into a laser medium and become a devastating cannon. The development of SBSP could potentially lead to a global military arms race, a cold war, or in the worst-case conflicts over space dominance. [4]


While space-based solar power could become a clean and renewable energy source, its potential for weaponisation introduces significant security concerns. Safeguarding against the misuse of SBSP technology and promoting international cooperation and transparency will be essential in ensuring the peaceful and responsible use of space for the benefit of all humanity.

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[1] Pultarova, T. (2024) Can space-based solar power really work? Published online at space.com. Available at: https://www.space.com/space-solar-power-pros-cons

[2] Published online at commons.wikimedia.org. Last accessed on April 16th 2024. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stages_of_space-based_solar_power_ESA24961672.png

[3] Published online at commons.wikimedia.org. Last accessed on April 16th 2024. Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Laser_broom_(artistic).jpg

[4] Cohen, Ariel (2021) How Space Lasers Could Soon Beam Clean Power Down To Earth, Published online at Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/arielcohen/2021/03/29/space-lasers-the-truth/




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