Hey everyone! Greetings from sunny (and stormy) Orlando!
I attendedÂ a couple ofÂ ISDC sessions this afternoon on space-based solar power.Â A couple of key takeaways from the sessions before Iget into posting some detailed notes.
SBSP seems to have more momentum than ever before. A combination of factors seem to be driving the effort:
National Security. Elements within the military are now backing the idea. The experience of expense and complexity of supplying forward bases in Iraq and Afghanistan has driving home the need to generate power on a local basis as much as possible.Â (The military is actually shipping deisel oil from the United States to bases in the Middle East).
Â There also is a growing realization that the U.S. can address both its dependence on foreign oil and global warming through increased use of solar power.
The military involvement is significant. The Armed Services have a lot of expertise and a lot of research dollars to spend. In the past, the militaryÂ Â has been crucial in driving R&D, developing break through technologies, and retiring risks.
Increasing Feasibility. A recent study has concludedÂ that theÂ technology is increasingly feasible.Â In fact, a California company, Solaren, plans to have an SBSP system up in about seven years.
So, for both government and private company, solar powerÂ would not only be a way to solve a number of pressing concerns, it looks like that something that could generate revenues.
Space Advocacy Support. Both the National Space Society and the Space Frontier Foundation – two of the leading pro-space groups – have gotten behind the approach as a way of not only solving Earth-base problems but also opening up space.
In remarks today, the NSS’s Mark Hopkins said that SBSP could serve as a “gateway” for opening up space to large-scale settlement and commercial operations.
Â SBSP now has high-level support within NASA. Former NSS Executive Director George Whitesides – who backs the effort – is a senior advisor at the space agency. One of his predecessors, Lori Garver, has been nominated to serve as NASA’s deputy director.
So, the overall atmosphere seems brighter than ever for SBSP. The questions is whether it will get the funding it needs to really develop. We’ll see.