Cocktail hour for ET? Nasa designs enormous ‘margarita glass’ to harvest energy from the sun

  • Solar energy harvester will beam energy to Earth in form of microwaves
  • Huge solar panel would float in space
  • Made of thousands of curved mirrors
It looks like a giant cocktail glass floating through the sky – but this might actually be the future of how we collect solar energy. Nasa has allocated funds for preliminary research into the huge solar panel that would soak up the sun’s rays from high above Earth.

The energy would be beamed down to our planet where power stations would pick it up and farm it out to customers.

It looks like a cocktail glass floating in space, but the SPS-ALPHA machine might be might actually be the future of how we collect solar energy

Nasa is taking the idea so seriously it has asked one of its former engineers to provide a proof of concept study.

John Mankins, who runs California based firm Artemis Innovation Management Solutions, said the SPS-ALPHA, or Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array, could become a reality one day.

He claims that it would be much cheaper than some alternatives like a single array that could go around Earth.


It would be made up of thousands of thin, curved mirror-like pieces which could move around to ensure that they picked up as much sun as possible.The inside of the SPS-ALPHA would also be lined with photovaltic panels which convert the sun’s energy into microwaves.

The SPS-ALPHA machine will harvest solar radiation and beam it back to Earth The SPS-ALPHA machine will harvest solar radiation and beam it back to Earth

These microwaves would then be beamed down to Earth out of the bottom end of the ‘cocktail glass’.

On the NASA website Mr Mankins writes the project is a ‘a novel, bio-mimetic approach to the challenge of space solar power’.

He says: ‘If successful, this project will make possible the construction of huge platforms from tens of thousands of small elements that can deliver remotely and affordably 10s to 1000s of megawatts using wireless power transmission to markets on Earth and missions in space.’

The technology could make it more likely that mankind could build a Dyson sphere.

The spherical solar panel would go around the Sun and give us more energy than we ever need, but it is not clear how it could be brought back the 93 million miles to Earth.

Turning the solar energy into microwaves and beaming them across space could now provide the answer.

NASA’s announcement comes after regulators in California approved a contract with US firm Solaren Corp to supply space based solar power to a company in the US state as early as 2016.

A group of Japanese companies and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency also plans to launch a solar space station in 20 years’ time.


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