Solar power satellite hardware tested in orbit

WASHINGTON. U.S. Naval Research Laboratory engineers launched the Photovoltaic Radio-frequency Antenna Module (PRAM), aboard an Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle as part of a comprehensive investigation into prospective terrestrial use of solar energy captured in space.

The 12-inch square tile module will test the ability to harvest power from its solar panel and transform the energy to a radio frequency microwave. This flight experiment enables researchers to test the hardware in actual space conditions.

This current experiment focuses on the energy conversion process and resulting thermal performance. The hardware will provide researchers with temperature data, along with PRAM's efficiency in energy production. This information will drive the design of future space solar prototypes.

Depending on the results, the team aims ultimately to build a fully-functional system on a dedicated spacecraft to test the transmission of energy back to Earth. The development of a space solar capability could potentially help provide energy to remote installations like forward operating bases and disaster response areas.