The concept of space-based solar power, also referred to as solar power satellites (SPS), has been evolving for decades. In 1968, Dr. Peter Glaser of Arthur D. Little, Inc. introduced the concept using microwaves for power transmission from geosynchronous orbit (GEO) to an Earth-based rectifying antenna (rectenna). Since then, technology has advanced on several fronts to remove some of the technological and economic barriers to practical full-scale implementation. U.S. decisionmakers are now facing a pivotal moment as several countries continue to invest in this promising, game-changing technology. This paper discusses the history of SPS, a few leading innovators, key functional components, and market applications. Ultimately, the United States must decide whether and how to invest in SPS to optimize the various operational, competitive, and societal benefits that this type of application offers to commercial, defense, and civilian markets.
The Center for Space Policy and Strategy provides nonpartisan research and strategic analysis to decisionmakers in the space enterprise.