The European Space Agency intends to use solar energy to power bases, operations, and lunar life. To begin this ground-breaking effort, the ESA has hired a Swiss firm to do a thorough feasibility assessment on the viability of building a solar power satellite largely from lunar resources.
The envisioned satellite would deliver the vital energy needed for lunar operations by sending microwave power to receivers on the lunar surface.
The satellite, which is fashioned like a butterfly, will include V-shaped solar panels that are combined with antennae and cover a surface area of more than one square kilometre.
This remarkable setup intends to provide a steady 23 megawatts of electricity, supporting lunar surface operations without interruption. Importantly, the solar panels will be constructed using Moon-produced iron pyrite monograin-layer solar cells.
The satellite may be launched at the Lagrange point between the Earth and the Moon, which is situated around 61,350 kilometres from the lunar surface. The satellite will serve as a conduit between Earth and Moon operations and provide artificial gravity to assist adaptive health goals, in addition to enabling lunar energy requirements.
Notably, the satellite is designed to be more than simply a power source; it also aims to become an astronauts’ home, a possible tourist attraction, and a model for future cislunar space colonies.
The SOLARIS project manager, Sanjay Vijendran, expressed excitement about the prospect of solar power satellites based on lunar resources. He emphasised that this lunar-based idea has potential for scaling up satellite manufacturing utilising lunar resources, even if launching gigawatt-scale satellites from Earth confronts difficulties linked to launch capacity and air pollution.
The ESA believes that these lunarly manufactured solar power satellites will have a number of benefits over satellites launched from the surface of the Earth, including the need for about five times less velocity change to bring them into geostationary Earth orbit.
The creation of a cislunar transit system, as well as mining, processing, and manufacturing facilities on the Moon and in orbit, are just a few of the several advantages Sanjay expounded on. He also predicted that this endeavour will provide Earth with enough clean energy.
A two-planet economy and the ultimate development of a spacefaring civilisation would be made possible by this.
The study shows that solar power satellites built on the Moon would not only be more affordable than Earth-developed alternatives, but also offer cost-competitive electricity generation for Earth, outperforming any terrestrial power sources, even though significant engineering development is still needed.