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.
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.
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.
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