Solar in Space: Solar Panels and NASA

NASA Is Leading Research That Uses Solar in New Ways in Space

Solar in Space: Solar Panels and NASA

It may be surprising to some people, but NASA is working hard to improve the environment here on earth. For every negative story about the amount of carbon produced by a single space shuttle launch, or the fact that reaching orbit may punch holes in the ozone layer, NASA has quietly invested time and work into partnering with several leading solar researchers and manufacturers to improve the quality of solar power generating technology.

These advances in solar power help to further generate power in space for existing satellites and spacecraft, as well as the International Space Station. The advanced solar technology is not only employed in ongoing and up and coming NASA projects, but it is also used to increase the efficiency and power generating capacity of solar projects here on Earth.

NASA-driven technological advances are also helping to make manufacturing and installing solar power systems more efficient, and energy and cost effective. What’s more, NASA is working on a project that generates electricity from solar and wirelessly beams it down to earth.

NASA Is Powered by Solar

For many years now, solar power has been the main energy source used on NASA missions. Additionally, NASA is working on new solar technologies that will help improves space-based power systems for both human and robot piloted exploration of our solar system.

The solar power systems currently employed by NASA on projects such as the International Space Station are so large that they dwarf the station itself, but they still had to be light weight and extremely efficient to pass the test of whether they are worth the fuel costs of bringing them out to space.

However, the technology used on the ISS is more than a decade old. Considerably more advanced solar energy technology is waiting to be used on upcoming projects in space, on the moon, and eventually on Mars.

How NASA Has Improved Solar

NASA technologies that are used in space-based applications are also providing many benefits here on Earth. NASA has driven advances in the development of lighter and more efficient solar arrays.

These advances have now made it into the designs for residential and commercial solar here on earth, helping to drive down the cost of the systems themselves, as well as the installation costs, not to mention the load on commercial and residential rooftop applications.

NASA actively works with private companies as a research partner in the field of solar power technology. Even better, NASA shares any scientific breakthroughs it makes in solar energy with the field in order to accelerate the development of future solar technology.

The Future of Solar May Actually Be in Space

Beyond the assistance NASA provides to solar manufacturers and researchers, and beyond funding advancements in the reduction in size and improved efficiency of existing solar technology, NASA is also working on a project that may move solar power generation into space in the near future.

A massive solar array satellite could be generating enough solar power to cover one third of the earth’s needs and beaming it wirelessly to the planet’s surface — and it could be fully functional within the next decade.

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[Photo via: Wikimedia]