Space-based solar power is getting serious—can it solve Earth’s energy woes?

The U.K. government this year offered up to £6 million in grants to test technologies. Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, and U.S. agencies all have small efforts underway. “The tone and tenor of the whole conversation has changed,” says NASA policy analyst Nikolai Joseph, author of an assessment NASA plans to release in the coming weeks. What once seemed impossible, space policy analyst Karen Jones of Aerospace Corporation says, may now be a matter of “pulling it all together and making it work.”

NASA first investigated the concept of space solar power during the mid-1970s fuel crisis. But a proposed space demonstration mission—with ’70s technology lofted in the Space Shuttle and assembled by astronauts—would have cost about $1 trillion. 

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