A GROUP of Glasgow-based students are working on an international project to design the building blocks of a Moon base.

The University of Strathclyde students are working on the power generation, storage and distribution system that would support a Moon base, the first of which could be up and running by the end the decade.

The initiative, coordinated by the Swiss Space Centre, is supported by the European Space Agency and comes under the ESA Lab umbrella.

The technology could ultimately lead to sustainable space-based solar power being commercially generated for the Earth.

The purpose of the mission is to demonstrate technologies capable of supporting a manned lunar base.

Called Igluna PowerHab, the Strathclyde team envisage constellations of solar power satellites, or solar reflector satellites, complementing ground-based solar arrays.

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The solar power satellites use microwave wireless power transmission to transfer the harvested energy to the lunar base and the solar reflector satellites work by reflecting and focusing solar radiation towards the ground arrays.

The team has explored designs for advanced lithium-ion battery systems, thermal mass storage systems and a novel regenerative hydrogen fuel cell allowing both power storage and generation.


Drew Gillespie, 22, the team leader and systems engineer, who is a fifth year MEng Aero-Mechanical Engineering student from Barrhead, said: “I am focused on the systems design of it, which is more of an overview and general look at how the systems interact.

“We have two power harvest concepts, a reflector satellite, which is basically a satellite with a large reflective surface reflecting light down to the base solar panels and then we also have our solar power satellite concept which involves wireless power transmission, so essentially your solar panels would be attached to the satellite and then the power would be harvested in orbit and then beamed down using microwave power transmission.

“So that is our two main harvest systems and we the have three different storage systems.”

He said the technology could be used for more efficient energy production on Earth in the longer term, possibly in two decades.

“Our fuel cell technology and the lithium ion battery technology are things which are actually being looked at at the moment by different governments and different companies especially the likes of Tesla to transition us to a sustainable grid.”

Mr Gillespie added: “Particularly the fact that we’re working on the fringe of university and transitioning into government agencies and industry, that is really exciting.

“The estimates are about three or four years to get back to the Moon. I think the Americans are wanting to have a base in 2028. With current technology and the kind of technology we are going to see within the next decade it is very possible that we could have a fully functioning lunar base before the end of this decade.”

The team is building prototypes to test in Switzerland.

Professor Massimiliano Vasile, the director of the Aerospace Centre of Excellence at University of Strathclyde, said: “The initiative, coordinated by the Swiss Space Centre, is supported by the European Space Agency and is called ESA_lab.

“Our students, in particular, are developing the power system that is going to support the Moon base. In July, they will have a field test of some of the technologies they are developing and we are hoping to present the results of their work at the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai in October.”

Gareth Mitchell, 22, is the co-team leader and reflective satellite and remote operations engineer, and also a fifth year MEng Aero-Mechanical Engineering student, who is from Edinburgh. Also part of the team are Samuel Beard, 23, from France, Donald Martin, 22, from Stornoway, Bradley Skelton, 22, from Glasgow, Finlay Rowe, 21, Alex Potter, 21, both Edinburgh, and Gavin Rodgers, 21, who is from Aberdeen, .