Leader in the space based solar power (SBSP) effort and my inspiration as a citizen-advocate, Dr. Smith’s unfaltering enthusiasm for SBSP in this recent podcast interview continues to be inspiring as well as informative.
In 2007, As Chief, Future Concepts “Dreamworks” out of the National Security Space Office, Col. Smith was one of the team leaders that organized and lead a unique, voluntary group of 170 academic, scientific, technical, legal, and business experts from around the world to compile and publish the architecture study, Space‐Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security. It was this study that rekindled my fascination with SBSP and led me to become a self-appointed advocate of this game-changing technology.
The American four-year political cycle dissipates tremendous amounts of energy and opportunity like so much waste heat. Right, wrong or indifferent, when the first acts of every new administration are to undo the efforts of the previous administration in some made-for-television show of power and bravado, truly important projects like space-based solar power (SBSP), which require long-term planning and commitment, may literally never get off the ground for the citizens of the United States.
Without the authority to enter into international treaties, the private sector probably can’t implement SBSP on its own. Without the incentive to plan and execute outside of the four-year political cycle, the government probably can’t implement SBSP on it’s own.
Does logic suggest that a public-private partnership will be required to develop and implement SBSP for Americans? Do we have to rely on Congress to create that partnership? Spurring Congress to that meaningful action might fall on the shoulders of all Citizens for Space Based Solar Power.
It has long been C-SBSP’s assertion that Earth-found fuels–carbon-based, uranium, thorium, etc.–are all finite natural resources that will one day be more costly to extract than the value of the energy they will yield. On a planetary time scale, or even the time scale of humankind, when that day comes is practically irrelevant. If we are not prepared when that day does inevitably arrive, civilization as we know it, and perhaps even the existence of humankind, will no longer be sustainable.
To once again restate the obvious, the Sun is our virtually unlimited source of abundant, clean energy. The only question that remains is how best to harvest energy from the Sun to provide sustainable baseload power on a planetary scale. In C-SBSP’s opinion, the answer is space-based solar power (SBSP), with the following conditions:
SBSP development and deployment must be done with the agreement, cooperation and participation of all space-faring nations, for the common good of all humankind.
Given the potential century-level project timeline, conventional political cycles and economic models must be superseded.
SBSP must utilize off-planet manufacturing, construction and maintenance.
SBSP must harvest and utilize off-planet materials and resources.
Earth Day 2021 was celebrated with the highlighting of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) efforts to test, develop and implement space-based solar power to eliminate current supply chain risks and provide power directly to U.S. expeditionary forces.
The now ubiquitous Global Positioning System (GPS) was originally developed for military applications and has evolved into a multi-use system that is used every day by the general public. The development of space-based solar power is sure to follow a similar path into peacetime use by the entire planet.
SSPIDR is a series of Integrated Demonstrations and Technology Maturation efforts at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Directorate to address space-based power collection and transmission capabilities.
“I have often suggested that given humanity’s increasing and irreversible dependence on outer space for daily human needs, space will either be safe for all or for none.”
The future of space based solar power is dependent on solving technical, financial and political issues. Could the security of outer space end up being the most difficult issue of all? Perhaps the collective need of all humankind for a virtually unlimited source of clean energy can be the catalyst for geopolitical agreement on a peaceful use of outer space.
The article, published in The Space Review and linked above, summarizes the current positions of the United States, our allies and our competitors in outer space. In a rather ominous summary, the author asks if space will ultimately be safe for all … or for none.
C-SBSP has long believed that space-based solar power (SBSP) hardware should be manufactured in space, away from the deep gravity well of Planet Earth. Perhaps a cislunar application for SBSP will provide the impetus needed for the United States to develop the required space-based mining / refining, space-based manufacturing and space-based assembly technologies.
This hour-long presentation by Dr. Paul Jaffee, PhD, of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on July 30, 2020 is a comprehensive look at the past, present and future of power beaming and space based solar power. Power beaming is an integral part of space based solar power, and also has standalone terrestrial and space-based applications.
This video was livestreamed by the Homeland Defense & Security Information Analysis Center (HDIAC). The original podcast and links to additional resources highlighted by Dr. Jaffe may be found at:
The sixth mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is scheduled to launch on May 16, 2020. As reported by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, aboard will be an experiment from the the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory will transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy which could then be transmitted to the ground. Link to the full U.S. Space Force article is below.
Hat tip to Elisa Shebaro for posting this article on her FB page and letting us know!
Here’s a link to an additional “X-37B’s Next Mission To Demo Space-Based Solar Power” article from the Breaking Defense website:
Hearing NASA Astronaut, Jessica Meir say “space-based solar power arrays … incredible option in the future providing clean energy to power the world.” in this video (@3:14) from onboard the International Space Station literally brought me to tears.
As you all know, I’ve been an advocate of SBSP for years, just trying to make other citizens aware of this gamechanging clean energy technology.
Hat tip to Elisa Shebaro for posting this video on her FB page!
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.