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Investigation of Equatorial Medium Earth Orbits for Space Solar Power

Marshall, Michael A. and Madonna, Richard G. and Pellegrino, Sergio (2022) Investigation of Equatorial Medium Earth Orbits for Space Solar Power. IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, 58 (3). pp. 1574-1592. ISSN 0018-9251. doi:10.1109/taes.2021.3122790.

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Most existing space solar power concepts place one or more power stations in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO). However, due to the limited availability of GEO orbital slots, it may not be feasible to locate a power station in GEO. To overcome this limitation, this article presents a system analysis for a space solar power system that incorporates a constellation of power stations in a 20184 km altitude equatorial medium Earth orbit (MEO). The orbiting power stations are based on the Caltech Space Solar Power Project architecture. The constellation consists of multiple power stations in a shared equatorial MEO each transmitting to a nonequatorial receiving station. The analysis assumes a one-to-one correspondence between the number of power stations and the number of ground stations. Like a GEO-based system, this constellation architecture enables a MEO-based system to provide near continuous power (outside of eclipse) to each ground station. It is shown that a MEO constellation with three or more power stations provides comparable transmission efficiency to a GEO-based system. The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is then computed for MEO systems with three, four, and five power stations and compared to the LCOE for the GEO-based system. Ground station area is identified as a significant contributor to the LCOE for the MEO-based systems. The system analysis shows that a MEO constellation with as few as four power stations has an LCOE comparable to GEO, and hence, it is concluded that MEO is a viable alternative to GEO for space solar power.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Marshall, Michael A.0000-0002-4259-2484
Madonna, Richard G.0000-0002-8191-4896
Pellegrino, Sergio0000-0001-9373-3278
Additional Information:© 2021 IEEE. Manuscript received December 31, 2020; revised July 10, 2021; released for publication September 26, 2021. Date of publication November 10, 2021; date of current version June 9, 2022. The work of M. A. Marshall was supported by a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship. This work was supported by the Caltech Space Solar Power Project. The authors would like to thank Profs. H. Atwater and A. Hajimiri, Drs. D. Scharf, M. Kelzenberg, E.Warmann, and T. Gdoutos, and Mr. A. Fikes for insightful discussions on space solar power. They would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions that improved this article.
Group:Space Solar Power Project, GALCIT
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NASA Space Technology Research FellowshipUNSPECIFIED
Space Solar Power ProjectUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:satellite constellation, geosynchronous Earth orbit, levelized cost of electricity, medium Earth orbit, phased array, photovoltaics, space solar power, space system modeling
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20211217-98213000
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:M. A. Marshall, R. G. Madonna and S. Pellegrino, "Investigation of Equatorial Medium Earth Orbits for Space Solar Power," in IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems, vol. 58, no. 3, pp. 1574-1592, June 2022, doi: 10.1109/TAES.2021.3122790
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:112525
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:18 Dec 2021 00:08
Last Modified:11 Jul 2022 23:04

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