Space butterfly: future of lunar bases may depend on solar power

Creating a reliable power source for lunar bases is one of the major challenges facing scientists and engineers. Solar power seems like an obvious solution, but the long lunar nights make it an impractical option. However, a new study from the European Space Agency (ESA) offers a unique solution to this problem – the use of a space butterfly.

Astrostrom’s research for ESA proposes the concept of a Large Earth Lunar Power Station (GEO-LPS), which is covered with solar panels made from lunar materials. These panels emit microwaves onto the lunar surface, providing energy to lunar bases.

The idea of harnessing solar power in space has been around for a long time. On Earth, solar panels are limited by night time and weather conditions, which reduces their efficiency. In space, however, solar energy becomes very attractive because there is no night and no atmosphere.

The main focus of the ESA study is on the new GEO-LPS design. It consists of a crewed station core and a pair of V-shaped solar panels curved in a spiral to provide structural support. These panels cover a square kilometer and feature solar panels with a mono-grained layer of pyrite and antennas to transmit power to the moon with a power output of 23 megawatts.

GEO-LPS will be located at the Earth-Moon Lagrangian Point 2, which is 61,350 kilometers from the Moon’s surface. Here, the gravitational pull of the Earth and Moon balance each other, ensuring the stability of the station. GEO-LPS can not only serve as a power station, but also as a space laboratory, a base for deep space missions and even a tourist destination.

What’s particularly interesting is that the study claims that the necessary technology to build a GEO-LPS already exists or is under development on Earth. Utilizing lunar resources will reduce the cost of launching and assembling the station. In addition, the component manufacturing processes and concepts for assembling a solar-powered satellite in lunar orbit can be scaled to produce additional solar-powered satellites from lunar resources to serve Earth.

“Launching a large number of gigawatt solar-powered satellites into orbit from the Earth’s surface will face the problem of a lack of launch capacity as well as potentially significant atmospheric pollution,” notes Sanjay Vijendran, who oversees ESA’s SOLARIS research and development initiative. However, the GEO-LPS concept could solve these problems and become an efficient source of power for lunar bases and even Earth.

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