NASA’s New Goal Should Be Space Based Solar Power

NASA’s new overarching goal should be to lead the joint public-private development and deployment of space-based solar power as a baseload power source. It’s a goal that would encompass many other technologies (non-rocket launch methods, AI-based robotic assembly in space, mining of lunar and NEO resources, lunar base operations, energy conversion and transmission methods, etc.) and inspire young people get advanced educations and be a part of making the planet a better place for everyone, much like the Apollo program did.

The unique aspect of NASA adopting space-based solar power as an overarching goal is that the long-term result would be a revenue positive system owned and operated by the United States of America. We would become a net exporter of clean, virtually unlimited energy.

Prohibitive launch costs are cited as the primary roadblock to space-based solar power today. Let’s come up with an elegant solution, such as a mass driver launch system initially powered by terrestrial solar power and eventually powered by the first space-based solar power satellite. It’s a positive upward spiral. The more power available, the more payload put in orbit and assembled into additional satellites resulting in more power available … and repeat. Once such a self-proliferating system harvests more energy than it uses, the excess energy can be directed into existing or new distribution grids.

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An Energy-Independent Future – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 06/16/2010 – Video Clip | Comedy Central

While this video from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show is satirizing the government rhetoric regarding the need for an energy-independent America, it points out a sad trend. For generations, our politicians have paid the topic of energy independence lip service when it has been politically expedient but have done little of any substance to advance towards achieving this critical national goal.

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SBSP on George Friedman’s Agenda

STRATFOR’s founder and CEO George Friedman discusses the push for space-based energy infrastructure after EADS, Europe’s largest space company, announces plans to launch a test satellite with solar panels. Friedman also predicted that space-based solar power will be the planet’s primary source of energy sometime in the next 100 years in his latest book by the same title … “The Next 100 Years”.

Solar Power Satellites Issue – Online Journal of Space Communication

This Issue #16 – Solar Power Satellites is the most comprehensive set of articles I have seen in one place addressing all aspects of space-based solar power.

“In this issue, the Journal advances the proposition that the next generation of satellite services will be to gather sun’s energy in space and to deliver it to earth as a clean and sustainable source of electrical power. In the 21st century, the need for alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity has become so great that space is now a real option.”

Ralph Nansen, author of ENERGY CRISIS: Solutions from Space, and former Manager of the Solar Power Satellite Program for The Boeing Company is the guest editor for this edition of the Online Journal of Space Communication.

Obama Transition Team Requests SBSP Public Input

On June 17, 2008, Citizens for Space Based Solar Power submitted a Letter to Senator Obama, with the intent of making him aware of Space Based Solar Power and asking him to carefully consider making this technology a key aspect of his proposal for a clean energy future …

I THINK THEY HEARD US … along with your combined voices and those from the Space-Based Solar Power study group and the Space Frontier Foundation, which submitted a white paper titled Space Solar Power (SSP) — A Solution for Energy Independence & Climate Change to the Obama Transition Team. A few days ago, this white paper was posted to the Change.gov website for public input, where it has already received over three hundred comments from both supporters and skeptics.

From its inception, one of the main goals of Citizens for Space Based Solar Power has been:

  • Elevate SBSP to the level of national discussion and influence government and industry leaders in the development and deployment of this potentially game-changing technology.

Now is the chance for your voice to be heard in the national conversation about Space Based Solar Power! Whether you are a supporter or a skeptic, now is your chance to be heard by the people who have it in their power to start Space Based Solar Power down the path to reality.

Wrote My Congressmen

After receiving an open letter from Delta Airlines this evening, I sent the following letter to my congressional representatives, via the stopoilspeculationnow.com website.

Dear Senator Chambliss, Senator Isakson and Representative Gingrey:

As one of your constituents from Marietta, Georgia, I am using the messaging function on stopoilspeculationnow.com to contact you but I won’t bore you with just another copy of their starter letter. I am very concerned and passionate about our energy future, and below I will offer a much longer term, potentially game-changing solution for your consideration.

High prices and dependency on foriegn sources for energy are threatening our economy and security and I strongly urge Congress to act immediately to take positive steps towards a secure, clean energy future for all Americans.

I do believe we need to increase domestic supply, exploration, alternative energy sources and conservation, but expanded use of domestic sources of fossil fuels must be seen as only a bridge to our energy future, not a solution. We also must protect legal commodities speculation and eliminate the possibility of any illegal or harmful practices.

For the long term future solution, I am a self-appointed advocate for the immediate and large scale development of space-based solar power. Large solar panels would be put into orbit, where they would receive intense sunlight 24/7/365. This energy would be broadcast to receiving antennas (rectennas) on earth in the form of electromagnetic radiation at frequencies that would not be hampered by clouds or dust in the atmosphere. This energy would be converted to conventional electricity and connected directly to the existing power grid for distribution.

This will be a complex and expensive engineering project with many beneficial offshoots in terrestrial alternative energy and space exploration technologies. I have much more information and many links on a website titled Citizens for Space Based Solar Power (c-sbsp.org).

While this idea has existed since the 1960’s, it is very disappointing that space-based solar power isn’t at least a part of the worldwide conversation on moving our energy outlook towards a sustainable future.

Rob Mahan
Citizens for Space Based Solar Power

Letter to Senator Obama

This evening I submitted the following letter to Senator Obama through the Other Thoughts and Questions page on his campaign website. I will continue to contact both campaigns on the topic of space-based solar power for the duration of the election season.

I would once again encourage each of you to contact our presidential candidates and everyone else that you can think of and present them with space-based solar power. Before we can hope to see it included in anyone’s plan for a clean energy future, we must break through and make it a part of our national conversation.

Senator Obama,

I have read your plan for a clean energy future and I agree that is what our national goal must be, in very general terms. I also agree with the need for major national investment in commercial-scale renewable energy technologies and extensive research and development. I am very concerned, however, on several key aspects of your plan. A key part of your plan appears to hinge on biofuels, which depend on a huge amount of input energy, fertilizers and pesticides to produce significant quantities and often carry the unintended negative consequences to our food sources that we are now starting to see worldwide. Your plan’s emphasis on global warming remediation is also of great concern to me. I personally believe that the warming trend that is being detected is only minorly anthropogenic and the huge investments you are proposing will have only a minor effect on the trend many years in the future. Lastly, your plan’s emphasis on mandated efficiency improvements will cost the taxpayers dearly and mostly serve to facilitate an ever increasing total energy consumption. Significantly missing from your energy plan are efforts to exploit untapped domestic fossil fuel caches, which I believe we are going to need as an “energy bridge” to that clean energy future. It is going to take a huge amount of energy in the next 20 to 50 years to develop the new energy technologies and infrastructures that are required to carry our civilization forward.

I would offer a clean, sustainable and scalable solution with great potential known as space-based solar power. Large arrays of solar panels would be put in geosynchronous orbit to collect intense solar energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This energy would be transported to the surface of the planet in the form of low intensity microwave beams, where it would be collected by rectifying antennas (rectennas), converted to electricity and channeled directly into the existing power distribution grid. Once in place, the input energy required is practically nothing compared to the steady stream of clean, renewable and scalable energy output. My website, Citizens for Space Based Solar Power (c-sbsp.org), has a good amount of information on this technology and links to many other great resources and groups.

The National Security Space Office published an updated report on the feasibility of this technology in October of 2007. While space-based solar power will be a complex and costly engineering project, no major technical or scientific breakthroughs are needed. The huge increase in oil prices since then makes the business case for exploring space-based solar power that much more attractive.

I invite you to learn more about space-based solar power and strongly consider making it a key aspect of your proposal for a clean energy future.

Respectfully,

Rob Mahan
Marietta, Georgia