A good summary of NASA programs in 2020 and beyond. Still no mention of space-based solar power, but it’s good to see plans for the Artemis program moving forward. The establishment of a lunar base will provide a foundation for the development of lunar mining and manufacturing operations that could support a space-based solar power effort.
From the NASA Explore newsletter:
On Monday, Dec. 9, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine showed off the Space Launch System’s 212-foot-tall rocket core stage that will send our first Artemis mission to space. The core stage, built at America’s “Rocket Factory” – NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility – in New Orleans, is the largest we have produced since the Apollo Program.
The milestone marks a new chapter in the Artemis story as we work to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024.
Fifty years after the Apollo program propelled the first humans to the Moon, NASA’s Artemis program is a plan to return us to the Moon. This time, we will stay, in orbital and surface outposts. The knowledge and resources gained in these outposts will fuel humankind’s next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
NASA programs spin off technologies that enter and improve our Earthbound lives. I believe the Artemis program will spin off space mining, space manufacturing, and other technologies that will support America’s capabilities to develop and implement scalable and sustainable space-based solar power.
As Citizens for Space Based Solar Power readers know, I believe that space-based solar power is the only viable replacement for fossil fuels that will supply global energy needs as we move into the 22nd century and beyond.
Ian Cash, of SICA Design Ltd, presented a new Solar Power Satellite (SPS) concept during the Space Solar Power Workshop of the IEEE WiSEE conference held in Montreal last month. Ian’s presentation is linked below. Special thanks to Elisa Shebaro of PowerSOL, who attended this conference and brought the CASSIOPeiA presentation to my attention.
The CASSIOPeiA Solar Power Satellite is “based on the principle of wavelength-scale modular integration of all major functions, from solar collection through to beam-formation.” With no moving parts, CASSIOPeiA’s patent-pending phased array permits beam steering through 360 degrees.
The ultralight helical structure maintains a constant solar collecting area directly facing the Sun. Stowed as an integrated and highly compact package, this concept offers “the enticing possibility of a fully functional SPS deployed as a single payload.” The full CASSIOPeiA white paper can be read here.
Dr. Seyed (Reza) A. Zekavat, Michigan Tech, and Darel Preble, Space Solar Power Institute, Georgia Tech, co-chair the Space Solar Power Workshop as part of the annual IEEE WiSEE Conference. Papers and presentations from recent Space Solar Power Workshops can be seen at the bottom of Dr. Zekavat’s faculty page, here.
As one of five research proposals selected for year-long studies, NASA will study the Colorado School of Mines’s proposal, “21st Century Trends in Space-Based Solar Power Generation and Storage.” Although previous NASA studies of the space-based solar power concept have not resulted in any meaningful action, perhaps this time will be different. It is at least encouraging to learn that NASA is still interested in this potentially game-changing idea.
“Our space technology work is focused on providing new capabilities for robotic and human exploration of the solar system, but we are also here to help enable new commercial markets or enterprises,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA. “The results of these studies provide insights into the potential economic impacts of new space-based capabilities and applications which in turn helps guide our investments in technology development.”
Jeremy Hsu’s article, NASA Wants to Know Cost of Space Solar Power, brought this September 23, 2017 NASA announcement to my attention. I left the following perhaps not-so-humble opinion in the comment section of Jeremy’s article:
IMHO: Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) will be our planet’s main source of energy at some point in the 21st century. The initial research and investments will be funded by a public-private partnership, with similarities to the transcontinental railroad and communication satellite projects.
I agree that high launch costs are one of the biggest hurdles to a successful implementation and scale-up of SBSP. Because of this, space-based mining and manufacturing technologies should precede, or at least parallel SBSP development.
Fossil fuels are a finite resource.Only the future point in time at which fossil fuels will be more costly to extract than they are worth is in question. For all practical purposes of humankind, energy from the sun is an infinite resource.
“It can’t be done!” is a self-fulfilling and self-defeating stance, especially when it is fueled by an inordinate amount of self-confidence.
All the best,
Citizens for Space Based Solar Power
Paul Allen is on a quest to expand access to space. Stratolaunch is envisioned as a reusable CTOL air-launch platform with a 550,000 pound payload capacity. With reduced launch wait times, launch location flexibility, and more missions per year, this innovative platform should start to bend the launch cost curve earthward. That’s good news for the development and deployment of space-based solar power.
Visit the Stratolaunch website for more information.
“Trump Should Make Space-Based Solar Power A National Priority”
by Bruce Dorminey, contributor, Forbes.com
In a recent Forbes.com article, science journalist and author Bruce Dorminey argues for the current administration to make development and deployment of space-based solar power a national priority. Read the full article here.
If President Trump were to champion space-based solar energy as a means of delivering unlimited, renewable electricity from Earth orbit, it’s arguable that his administration could leave the U.S. and the world at large with a revolutionary new source of energy.
In this advocate’s opinion, one of the most important points Dorminey makes is that ” … the fledgling space-based solar power initiative needs cohesive leadership to actively plot goals and transform it into a workable industry.” The majority of SBSP supporters have thus far focused on engineering challenges, essential to the technical “how is it done” question of space-based solar power. Two other questions, the financial “who pays for it” and the political “who gets the credit or takes the blame” must also be answered for a complete solution.
With most complex problems, the level of difficulty usually increases from the technical solution to the financial solution to the often intractable political solution. A current, complex problem to illustrate this three-pronged approach might be the ongoing battle over national healthcare. (Have even one of the three questions truly been answered yet?)
To jumpstart a U.S.-led space-based power agenda, at least three in-depth proposals for federal legislation have already been put forward:
Space Review article: Federal Legislation to Jumpstart Space Solar Power – written by Mike Snead, President, the Spacefaring Institute™
D3 Space Solar Proposal – Diplomacy, Development, and Defense (D3) Innovation Summit Pitch Challenge award-winning proposal by a team of scientists led by Dr. Paul Jaffe, spacecraft engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)