Ad Astra Special Report – Space-Based Solar Power

Ad Astra ("to the stars"), the award winning magazine of the National Space Society (NSS), has recently published a special report covering space-based solar power (SBSP). This richly illustrated special report explains the technologies behind SBSP in an easy to understand way. Included is a fascinating conversation with Dr. Pete Glaser, now 84 and considered the father of the space-based solar power concept.

A large portion of the special report details the efforts of the Space-Based Solar Power Study Group who, in conjunction with the National Space Security Office (NSSO), published Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security – Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study in October of 2007.

This special report includes the following five articles which discuss the potential for space-based solar power, with looks at its history, its current strategic importance and ways forward to make it a reality.

  • ENERGY FROM ORBIT – John C. Mankins
  • AN ENERGY PIONEER LOOKS BACK – William Ledbetter
  • STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE – Space-Based Solar Power Study Group
  • A NEW COALITION – Arthur Smith
  • ON THE MOON – Al Globus

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Sir Arthur C. Clarke : 90 Orbits Around the Sun

I shed a tear as I read the obituary of Sir Arthur C. Clarke yesterday. He regaled us with science fiction stories based on fantastic ideas of our future, both on and off the planet. He provided scientific commentary to us during the exciting days of Apollo moon missions, alongside Walter Cronkite. And he has given us many scientific ideas which have become realities like communication satellites, geosynchronous orbits and the space station. Sir Arthur also recently lent his support to the Google Lunar X-Prize competition.

When personal computers would barely fit in your living room let alone on your desk and the Internet was known only to a handful of DARPA researchers as ARPANET, I read a passage in 2001:A Space Odyssey that has stuck with me for over 30 years. It wasn’t even part of the story. It was a short note at the end of the book that said “The entire manuscript for this book was sent from Sri Lanka to my publisher in New York City on a single 5-1/4 inch floppy disk.” At that moment, I realized that if I one day become a writer, I could live and work from anywhere in the world. Little did I know what was to come … but I’ll bet Sir Arthur did.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke left us with three wishes:

“I would like to see some evidence of extra-terrestrial life.”
“I would like to see us kick our addiction to oil and adopt clean energy sources.”
“I dearly wish to see lasting peace established in Sri Lanka.”

He ends his 90th Birthday Reflections video with this quote from Rudyard Kipling:

The Appeal

If I have given you delight
By aught that I have done,
Let me lie quiet in that night
Which shall be yours anon:

And for that little, little span
The dead are borne in mind
Seek not to question other than
The books I leave behind.

Rudyard Kipling, 1939

1975 NASA JPL Goldstone Demonstration of Wireless Power Transmission

The June 5, 1975 NASA JPL Goldstone Demonstration of high power long distance wireless power transmission successfully transmitted 34kw of electrical power a distance of 1.5km at an efficiency of greater than 82%. At the time, it was the world record for high power long distance wireless power transmission.

Debate Topic – Alternative Energy

The National Federation of State High School Associations – Speech, Debate and Theatre Association (NFHS SDTA) has announced Alternative Energy as the 2008-2009 debate topic. One of the suggested debate resolutions is:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives in the United States.

This is an excellent opportunity for the current generation of students to become aware of and involved in advocacy for space-based solar power. The students of today have much to gain from the development and deployment of space-based solar power since the majority of them will still be alive near the end of the 21st century!

Space-based solar power would make an excellent topic for a high school debate, research paper of perhaps even a science fair project. Whatever the forum, the more folks that learn about the potential for space-based solar power, the more likely that our political and private sector leaders will become aware of it and influence our energy future as a result.

The NFHS SDTA debate topic paper “The Crisis in Energy: Can the United States Live with an Insatiable Thirst for More Fossil Fuels?” outlines the many aspects of energy independence and alternative energies very well, however it overlooks the concept of space-based solar power. I will attempt to contact the authors and provide them with resources to learn more about space-based solar power.

Three Solutions Needed

Solar Power Satellite Concept ©Mafic Studios, Inc.

To borrow a phrase from Newt Gingrich, space-based solar power must become part of the “national conversation”. None of the presidential candidates mention space-based solar in their ideas for our energy future. Even Bill Richardson, former Secretary of Energy who published his views on our energy future in “Leading by Example”, does not even mention the concept of space-based solar power.

Do we need a nationally recognized spokesman (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn, John Young, Charles Simonyi, Tom Hanks, Mark Harmon, George H. W. Bush, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf, Al Gore, Burt Rutan, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Francis Everitt, Stephen Hawking, … ) to become the public “face” of space-based solar power? Do we need to hire a marketing or advertising firm to help get the word out on a national level? Do we need to hire a political consulting firm or a defense contractor consulting firm to help navigate the case for space-based solar power inside the beltway?

I learned that for every complex problem, there is a technical solution, a financial solution and a political solution. If you don’t answer all three, you don’t have a complete solution. There appears to be a lot of focus on the technical solution for space-based solar power (which of the three, I often think is the easiest to solve), but I’m not hearing or finding a lot on the financial or political solutions.

Help me help figure out “What comes next?” so we can get started on a complete solution for space-based solar power that will lead America to energy and fossil fuel independence and enhanced national security.

Image: Solar Power Satellite Concept ©Mafic Studios, Inc.

Space-Based Solar Power Radio Interview

My first exposure to the media as a self-appointed advocate for space-based solar power happened on December 28, 2007 on Dot Blum’s Atlanta radio show, Bright Spot. After many nights of preparation, the hour went by quickly and a few more citizens have now heard about space-based solar power and its potential to lead the way to energy independence for America and our allies.

If you missed the live broadcast of the show, you can listen to it right here! I would be grateful for your comments and suggestions on this interview.

15 MW of Solar Power at Nellis AFB

Nellis to save $1 million annually with use of solar panels

by 2nd Lt. Jennifer Richard
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Solar panels at Nellis AFB

12/4/2007 – NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFPN)  — Officials from Nellis Air Force Base and SunPower Corp. are scheduled to finalize the commission of 15 megawatts in solar power to the base this month, making up North America’s largest solar photovoltaic power system. When complete, the solar power will save the base $1 million annually. (read the rest of the article here and a related article here)

I posted the following comment on Air Force Letters:

Comment: Nellis to save $1 million annually with use of solar panels
Congratulations to Nellis AFB, Nev.,  on their commitment to the clean and renewable energy source of ground-based solar power. I truly hope the Air Force and the entire Department of Defense are planning to take the next big step to space-based solar power. On Oct. 10, 2007, the National Security Space Office of the Pentagon issued a Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study titled “Space-Based Solar Power as an Opportunity for Strategic Security.” This study states that “technological challenges are closing rapidly and the business case for creating SBSP is improving with each passing year.” Space-based solar power is a game-changing technology which needs the Department of Defense to be an early adopter to help develop, demonstrate and utilize this unlimited source of clean energy.

Rob Mahan 1/2/2008

Space-Based Solar Power Interview

If you have visited C-SBSP recently, you might wonder if I have taken a sabbatical. On the contrary, I have been studying and preparing to be interviewed about space-based solar power on Dot Blum’s Atlanta radio show, “Bright Spot”. The show will air live on Friday, December 28, 2007 from 3 to 4 p.m. on AM 1620 and will be available a few days later on the station’s website, www.radiosandysprings.com. Below is a list of questions I will attempt to answer and do justice to the cause of space-based solar power.

Space-Based Solar Power Interview Questions

  • Why is energy independence for our country so important?
  • What is space-based solar power?
  • How does space-based solar power compare with other energy sources?
  • Are you saying we should focus only on space-based solar power?
  • What are the main hurdles to developing and deploying space-based solar power?
  • Who should be responsible for developing space-based solar power?
  • Who should be the first customers for space-based solar power?
  • Are there other reasons you believe we should be developing space-based solar power?
  • Where to you see space-based solar power over the next 100 years?
  • What made you decide to become an advocate for space-based solar power?
  • Why did you start the website “Citizens for Space Based Solar Power”?
  • What information is on the website “Citizens for Space Based Solar Power”?
  • What do you want other citizens to do to support space-based solar power?