Northrop Grumman and Caltech Partner on Space Solar Power Initiative

Northrop Grumman has partnered with the California Institute of Technology to work together on a space-based solar power system called Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI).

The deal states that Northrop Grumman will provide up to $17.5 million dollars to the SSPI over three years. It is one of the biggest corporate-sponsored research projects Caltech has agreed to in recent years.

Caltech and Northrop will work together to focus on technologies like ultra-light photovoltaics, ultra-light deployable space structures, and phased array and power transmission. If all goes right, the space-station-like power supply could provide electricity at the same costs as your standard fossil fuel power plants.

The program seems to be a response to Japan’s space solar power systems project that began testing in March. They use a geostationary satellite to transmit power through microwaves and lasers.

Joseph Ensor, vice president and general manager of Space Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems at Northrop Grumman believes the relationship will lead to new solutions for solar power energy.

"By working together with Caltech, Northrop Grumman extends its long heritage of innovation in space-based technologies and mission solutions. The potential breakthroughs from this research could have extensive applications across a number of related power use challenges,”

Ensor said.

Northrop Grumman and Caltech have long history with each other, dating all the way back to Jack Northrop himself working with Professor Theodore von Karman.

The idea for SSPI was a team effort, created by three principal investigators from Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science - Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute; Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering; and Sergio Pellegrino, Joyce and Kent Kresa Professor of Aeronautics, Professor of Civil Engineering and Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist.

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