Military Embedded Systems

Solar to radio frequency conversion demoed by AFRL, Northrop Grumman


December 29, 2021

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Stock photo.

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. The first end-to-end demonstration of hardware for the Arachne flight experiment has been conducted by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) and Northrop Grumman’s Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project.

According to the official announcement, a ground demonstration of novel components for the “sandwich tile” were used to convert solar energy to radio frequency (RF), which researchers are claiming is a necessary step required to achieve large-scale solar power collection system in space.

In 2018, AFRL awarded Northrop Grumman a contract worth over $100 million for the development of a payload to demonstrate the key components of a prototype space solar power system. Officials claim that the sandwich tile is under development as a payload component for Arachne, and as a building block for a large-scale operational system. 

Researchers explained that the sandwich tile consists of two layers: the first layer a panel of highly efficient photovoltaic (PV) cells which are designed to collect solar energy and provide power to the second layer, and the second layer is populated with components that are engineered to enable solar to RF conversion and beamforming.

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