Every form of energy we have can eventually be traced back to the Sun. Space based solar power solves the on/off problem of terrestrial solar power, and could be delivered nearly anywhere on the planet 24/7/365. These characteristics make space based solar power a virtually unlimited, clean baseload power source.
Currently, payload launch-to-orbit costs are the single biggest hurdle to developing and deploying space based solar power. While it would be a massive and complex engineering project, no basic science breakthroughs are needed before space based solar power could be implemented.
Space based solar power is not a short-term solution to our energy needs. Domestic fossil fuel resources would provide a “bridge” to its eventual implementation … but fossil fuel will be a “bridge to nowhere”, unless we start developing space based solar power very soon.
Citizens for Space Based Solar Power*
*I’m a purely self-appointed advocate, and I have no financial stake in space based solar power. I simply believe that it will eventually be the solution to our energy future.
I wept at the news of Neil Armstrong’s death today. I wept for the man and his family, I wept for what the man symbolized, and I wept for America. As the sad news sank in, I was transported back in time. I was once again in front of that old, black and white television set in my parents’ house in Ohio. It was almost 11:00 PM, the room was dark except for the light coming from the TV, and my dad was sitting beside me on the couch.
Several hours before, our nation watched and listened as the Lunar Module Eagle, separated from the Command Module Columbia. Commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin left Command Module Pilot Michael Collins in lunar orbit, as they began their historic descent to the surface of the Moon. Soon, a voice called out declining altitude and velocity numbers. The details of the lunar surface grew clearer out a triangular window, and the shadow of the LM came into view. From Mission Control in Houston, we finally heard, “We copy you down, Eagle.” And then came the famous response:
“Houston … uh … Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
On that warm summer evening of July 21, 1969, I was mesmerized by the grainy picture of a fellow Ohioan, a farm boy from the small town of Wapakoneta on the other side of the state, poised on the ladder of the LM. I held my breath while Neil Armstrong described how far the pads of the lander had sunk into the powdery surface, only about one to two inches, he reported. Then, he said, “I’m going to step off the LM now.” With his right hand still on the ladder, he spoke for himself, and for all of humankind.
“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The American space program of the late 1950s and 1960s, and men like Neil Armstrong, inspired an entire generation of young people to enter the fields of science, engineering, and mathematics. America was strong, and the undisputed leader in manned and unmanned space exploration. To an eleven-year-old kid from Ohio, it seemed that even the sky was no longer the limit, and that anything we, as a nation, could imagine, was possible.
Today, when I heard that Neil Armstrong, American, First Man on the Moon had died, I wept for the loss of a boyhood hero … and I wept for the loss of America’s once-great space program. With American astronauts now having to hitchhike to the International Space Station, it feels like our nation has lost its desire, determination, and passion to lead the rest of the world into space. Along with that loss of passion, I fear that our space program is rapidly losing the very skills and abilities to once again be the leader in humankind’s exploration of the final frontier.
Neil Armstrong’s family has made a request of us, as we mourn the loss of a most humble, great American:
“The next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
A friend of mine just sent me a copy of the invitation to the May 22 AIAA Atlanta Dinner Meeting, where Darel Preble, president of the Space Solar Power Institute, is going to present “Space Solar Power – A Strategic Overview”.
I hope many of my former co-workers attend the dinner and learn about the potential of space-based solar power to be a game-changing technology in our energy future. In a partnership with Georgia Tech, Lockheed Martin seems like such a good fit for leading the United States in the commercial development of space-based solar power. They build rockets and satellites, do very large scale systems development and integration, conduct research green energy technologies . . . and they like to make money!
Lockheed Martin should be a charter member of the proposed public-private Sunsat Corporation, and lead the way to our energy future. There certainly is precedent for such a venture, e.g. the Railroad Act of 1862 and the Communications Satellite Act of 1962. I sincerely hope we don’t have to wait until 2062 to see a Sunsat Act come to fruition.
The dinner meeting will be at Scalini’s, one of my favorite Atlanta-area Italian restaurants!
I came across this recent TED Talk and the presenter eloquently summarized, in so many words, why it would be prudent for humankind to begin an earnest effort to make space-based solar power a reality. He believes that humans are highly intelligent and innovative, enough to solve the problem of over-exceeding the planet’s carrying capacity with no sign of recognition that infinite growth is a myth, a pipe dream.
According to Gilding, the only thing humankind lacks to begin solving this problem is a truly major worldwide financial crisis . . . the kind that could be precipitated by the collapse of today’s oil and coal industries. Are we, as card-carrying members of humankind, so focused on our own navels—so not nearly as advanced as we think we are—that we need a massive, painful crisis for motivation?
Why not just skip the crisis and start solving our problems now? Sounds like a better plan to me. What do you think?
The First International Assessment of Space Solar Power:
Opportunities, Issuesand Potential Pathways Forward
Recently, a member of the National Space Society Board of Directors informed Citizens for Space Based Solar Power of the following:
“On 14 November the National Space Society (NSS) will premier the 3-Year, 10-Nation, International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) Report on Space-Based Solar Power.”
From the IAA website: “Now, more than ever, large-scale and sustainable new energy sources are needed to meet global needs while satisfying environmental concerns. . . . During 2008-2010, the first international assessment of space solar power was conducted by a study group under the auspices of the International Academy of Astronautics.” The study contains the following major sections:
2. Solar Power Satellite Systems Concepts
3. SPS Supporting Systems
4. Technology Readiness And Risk Assessment
5. SSP / SPS Policy And Other Considerations
6. SPS Market Assessment and Economics
7. Preliminary Systems Analysis Results
8. An International Roadmap for Space Solar Power
9. Conclusion: Findings And Recommendations
The following is a 41-minute presentation from the International Space Solar Power Symposium at the National Space Society 2011 International Space Development Conference (ISDC) of a draft report of the study, Space Solar Power: The First International Assessment of Opportunities, Issues, and Potential Pathways Forward by John C. Mankins (Artemis Innovation). Mankins is the Chair and Editor of the study.
It’s time to say goodbye to the original Andreas09 theme, below, and say hello to the fresh new Twenty Eleven theme. I hope this cosmetic update makes new posts and the overall site easier to read and makes it easier to get the word out about space-based solar power and all of the possibilities it represents.
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.
“Stanford engineers have figured out how to simultaneously use the light and heat of the sun to generate electricity in a way that could make solar power production more than twice as efficient as existing methods and potentially cheap enough to compete with oil.”
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.