Solar space butterfly could power lunar outposts around the clock | Space


According to a study by Astrostrom for ESA, future Moon bases could be powered by a giant space butterfly called the Greater Earth Lunar Power Station (GEO-LPS) covered with solar panels made from lunar materials beaming microwaves to the surface.

One of the major design concerns in setting up a lunar base is finding a reliable means of powering it. Solar power might seem the obvious answer, but with lunar nights lasting 14 Earth days, it isn’t a practical option. However, though the most promising alternative is currently a small nuclear reactor, solar may not be out of the running.

The idea of solar power plants in space has been around for well over half a century. On Earth, solar panels are limited by night time, atmospheric haze, and bad weather, making them only capable of intermittent power generation with limited efficiency. On the other hand, in space, where there is no night and no atmosphere, solar power becomes very attractive.

According to the new ESA study, a space-based solar plant might be particularly attractive for lunar outposts. The focus of the study is the new GEO-LPS design, which consists of a crewed station core from which span a pair of V-shaped solar panels that are curved in a helix configuration to provide structural support. These panels covering a square kilometer (0.38 square miles) are equipped with iron pyrite monograin-layer solar cells and built-in antennae for beaming the collected energy to receptors on the Moon at a yield of 23 megawatts.

Artist’s concept of GEO-LPS beaming power to the Moon


The whole assembly would be located at Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 2 located 61,350 km (38,308 miles) from the lunar surface, where the gravitational pull of the Earth and the Moon balance one another out, providing a point that a station can orbit about as it would a solid…

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