“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.
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:
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.
“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:
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)
About the idea of space-based solar power, Goswami writes:
Could this idea be as revolutionary as the Wright Brothers’ paper plane that gave us modern aviation? Perhaps!
In the rest of the article, Goswami does a good job of explaining the fundamental principles behind space-based solar power, and then she goes on to talk about Japan, China, and India already being heavily invested in the development of space-based solar power.
As noted in a 2008 C-SBSP post, 21st Century Space Race, our nation is once again behind, and once again in a position to catch up. It is a race we must lead, and if not win outright, at least cross the finish line arm-in-arm with our friends and allies.
European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) subsidiary Astrium is seeking to scale up ground based demonstrations by getting public agencies and corporations interested in funding an orbital demonstration project. The company is projecting having a 10-20KW demonstrator in orbit, perhaps on the International Space Station, within five years. Astrium engineers are focusing on using infrared lasers to beam the collected energy back to the surface instead of the more traditional microwave beam approach.
This isn’t the first time Aviation Week & Space Technology has reported on space-based solar power, but it is the first time in a while and it may signify an up-tick in activities around the world.
I’ll make my plea once again … U.S. government agencies and private corporations must get on the space-based solar power development path soon or we will be left playing catch-up once again. It seems to me that Lockheed Martin Corporation is the perfect United States’ answer to EADS-Astrium’s efforts on the European continent.
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”.
“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.
Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) — Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and IHI Corp. will join a 2 trillion yen ($21 billion) Japanese project intending to build a giant solar-power generator in space within three decades and beam electricity to earth.
A research group representing 16 companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., will spend four years developing technology to send electricity without cables in the form of microwaves, according to a statement on the trade ministry’s Web site today.
An undated handout illustration (left) shows Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS), which beams the electricity using microwaves from space through the ionosphere, the outermost layer of the earth’s atmosphere, provided to the media on Sep. 1, 2009.