Space agency plans satellites for solar energy and forest monitoring

Posted by Emma Woollacott

EADS Astrium - Europe's biggest space company - is working on satellites to supply solar energy from space and monitor deforestation on Earth.

The company says it is looking for partners to help develop and fly a demonstration solar power mission, and hopes for input from governments, space agencies or power companies.

The system would use infrared lasers rather than microwaves, which have raised concern about health issues.

Astrium says it is now capable of manufacturing the necessary satellites, and claims to have tested the power transmission system in the lab. But, it says, it needs to improve the efficiency of the infrared-to-electricity conversion.

The technology could take ten years to put into practice.

A more immediate project is the company's plan to put five satellites dedicated to the environment into orbit this year.

"Satellites allow us to perform a global check-up of our planet’s health," said CEO Francois Auque.

"The technology that we are currently developing represents a major advance and we can now offer governments concrete solutions such as fighting against deforestation or developing high-precision agricultural practices."

It is working with the French Development Agency to monitor forests in the Congo basin, and with Brazilian NGO Imazon on the Mato Grosso forest in the Amazon.

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