Space Solar Power Being Considered at High Level

nss_logoWASHINGTON, DC (NSS PR) — The National Space Society (NSS) congratulates the “Space Solar Power D3” team on making it to the winners circle in a Department of Defense (DOD) competition to find promising new technology ideas that could simultaneously advance diplomacy, development and defense. Space Solar Power (SSP) is among only six winners out of 500 entries for the DOD’s first innovation challenge for the D3 (Diplomacy, Development, Defense) Summit.

The SSP team proposal is titled “Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill.” Their team has won the opportunity to present to the highest-level gathering of the three departments that are primarily responsible for U.S. foreign policy.

Winning proposal briefings will be made Wednesday, March 2 to representatives of the Secretary of Defense, the Vice Joint Chief of Staff, DOD senior leaders, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the U.S. Department of State. The presentation will happen at the State Department and a live stream can be found at http://video.state.gov/live.

Space Solar Power gathers energy from sunlight in space and transmits it wirelessly to Earth. SSP can solve our energy and greenhouse gas emissions problems and provide large quantities of energy to each and every person on Earth with very little environmental impact. This will be the first time that space solar power is briefed at such a high level.

The space solar power D3 team includes members of the Air Force’s Air University, the Naval Research Lab, Northrop Grumman, NASA, the Join Staff Logistics and Energy division, DARPA, the Army, and the Space Development Steering Committee. NSS wishes them the best of luck in their presentation on March 2.

D3 team member Col. M. V. “Coyote” Smith, a professor at Air University’s School of Advanced Air and Space Power Studies, states: “When you think about what could advance U.S. diplomacy, development, and defense objectives simultaneously, what could be better than creating a source of global, constant green energy? Energy is going to be a $21 Trillion industry. Imagine if American industry was supplying green energy to the billions of people in the developing world. The studies suggest that could mean five million new high tech jobs in satellite manufacture and launch. The world of 2050 might require as much as 55 terawatts of energy. The Space-Based Solar Power resource is huge, many times the global requirement, with about 330 terawatts waiting to be tapped in Geostationary orbit alone.”

Smith continued: “A government-led demo would be the first step to retire the technical risk with commercial companies following quickly. The demo itself would have a strategic effect on our aerospace industry–generating about $5 Billion for satellite design and manufacture and another $5 Billion for the launch industry. We estimate the demo alone would generate approximately 171,000 new jobs.”

Smith added: “We’re not the only one in the game. In fact, at the moment, we’re behind in what we believe is the only space race that really matters. The Chinese have an increasingly robust program. So do the Japanese. Europe, too. But not the U.S. The Chinese proponents have it right that this is the most ambitious space project in history, and that Space-Based Solar Power will trigger a new industrial revolution and determine who will be the global leader. Space-Based Solar Power is not a competition in which we can afford to come in second.”

“Space Solar Power may be the answer to both the energy crisis and climate change,” said Mark Hopkins, Chairman of the NSS Executive Committee. “We have worked for many years to place SSP on the national and international agendas, including working with India’s former President Dr. APJ Kalam to begin a US-India collaboration. NSS is fighting for a prosperous hopeful future for all of humanity.”

In December, NSS leaders Mark Hopkins, Dr. Feng Hsu who is chairman of the NSS Space Solar Power Committee, and Dr. Don Flournoy who runs the International SunSat Design Competition that brings forward the best new ideas in SSP, traveled to China. There they met with Chinese leaders and their renewable energy and space solar power experts to establish a new initiative, the International Consortium for Space Solar Power Research and Development. NSS is also working with Space Canada to support the International SunSat Design Competition.

“We at NSS firmly believe,” says Dr. Feng Hsu, “that SSP is a viable and potentially permanent solution to address many humanity’s top challenges regarding environmental, economic or even global geopolitical issues.” He added, “SSP certainly deserves attention by the world community at the highest level. The time for a full-scale SSP demonstration and R&D program has been long overdue since the 1979 NASA-Department of Energy studies, and the time has now finally arrived for the U.S. government and the space and energy industries to take concerted actions in support of SSP.” Feng concludes, “I have no doubt that if we in the U.S. continue to ignore the great idea of harnessing the Sun’s energy in a massive and unparalleled scale from space, we will risk being left further behind by the next technological and industrial revolution to be brought about by cheap, clean and abundant energy from space!” “National Security demands that America fund SSP research,” said Hopkins. NSS has created the world’s largest online library on SSP at nss.org/ssp.

About The National Space Society (NSS): NSS is an independent nonprofit educational membership organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen’s voice on space, with over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The Society publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space. To learn more, visit www.nss.org. Biographies for the Hopkins quote can be found at www.nss.org/about/bios/hopkins.html.

  • windbourne

    Space power being beamed to earth makes very little sense for general purpose. However, it does make sense for the DOD, along with rescue groups such as red Cross. Otoh, it makes great sense for both the moon and Mars.
    . In addition, the beaming of energy could become useful on earth. If we can beam at say 33-50% efficiency over a .5-1km range, it would enable earth movers, temp electric lines, etc to become viable.

  • I know that it’s a pet peeve, but:

    “The world of 2050 might require as much as 55 terawatts of energy.”

    I have an instant predisposition not to believe people who are pitching energy delivery systems and don’t know the difference between power and energy. Also, if you’re talking about complex technology, maybe the nickname “Coyote” isn’t so great. I wonder if ACME is going into the heavy-lift launch business.

  • Space Solar Power will be extremely useful in geostationary orbit. You can always bean any excess down for DoD field operations.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Assuming that the rest of the world will rise up and consume energy like we do. Also assuming that fusion is not going to work at our technology level, also assuming that thorium cycle fission can’t cover all our needs, or perhaps we’ll make the choice not to develop it. For all it’s difficulties space based solar power has the least number of unknowns and almost no theoretical barriers set by physics. It CAN work. Its a technological problem. We need to go up the long path of ultralight solar cells (being worked on now), lowering the cost of accessing space (being worked on now), asteroid mining might be nice (being worked on now.), and the problems of power conversion, transmission, reception, and re-converstion (also being worked on). If these new fangled fusion ideas don’t pan out, we might have to face the idea that the universe won’t allow for fusion power plants to give net positive energy in something you can fit on a planet. After 13,000 million years we’d probably be living in a universe run amok with starships if you could easily do that. Contained, controlled, fusion might be a dead end. Stars and bombs might be all the universe will allow. And we might chicken out of using fission in all it’s forms at the scale we need. Barring all that, as expensive as it is now, we might have to go to space based solar. Which, once you attack the cost problem, can scale nicely.
    Don’t get me wrong, we should not be chickens when it comes to fission, and we should give fusion good healthy tries at harnessing power and not just use it as a cover for 4th gen nuclear weapons work.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    what happens you your standing in its path? or a plane flies through it?

  • Gary Church

    “Space power being beamed to earth makes very little sense for general purpose.”

    Gerard Kitchen O”Neill thought it made good sense. I will go with him, thanks anyway.

  • Gary Church

    “Contained, controlled, fusion might be a dead end. Stars and bombs might be all the universe will allow.”

    That is most likely.

  • That’s one of those “doctor, doctor, it hurts when I do this” kinds of things. BTW, the beam and the antenna have a feedback loop so that the beam de-focuses if it drifts off target. I imagine you could do pretty much the same thing for errant planes.

  • stoffer

    Power is already beamed around the planet at more or less 1 kW per m^2. It is called sunlight.

  • Kapitalist

    After 13,000 million years we’d probably be living in a universe run amok with starships if you could easily do that
    But, oh, we are! That’s precisely why we don’t detect them around here. They’ve traveled to some place far far away.

  • Kapitalist

    How could it be useful for the military or rescue operations? They need huge receivers which are difficult to construct in disaster areas and too vulnerable and inflexible for military wartime use.

  • Kapitalist

    Carbon-Free Energy for Global Resilience and International Goodwill.
    Thank God that the next POTUS will have nothing to do with any of those phenomena. 171,000 jobs, that is a huge cost, a huge diversion of labor resources from productive activities to the by far most expensive, dangerous, vulnerable and inflexible power production method ever imagined. It will be perceived as the weapon of mass destruction which it actually would be, and be a diplomatic catastrophe and the start for a space arms race. Earth based solar power is already the most expensive way to generate electricity, launching it to space and building huge ground receivers would make it at least an order of magnitude worse.

  • Kapitalist

    Too far away. The ground receivers for microwaves would have to be use, AFAIU, since the beam spreads so much when it travels 100 times further away than the ISS. Besides, geosynchronous orbit is pretty hard to reach, requires a bit more delta-v than a lunar orbit insertion. Cheapest to GEO today I think is about $13,000 per kilogram. It is obvious to everyone that one kg of solar panel outside of the atmosphere does not compete with tons of natural gas at the same cost. Beamed space solar power could however be very useful for use in space and on bodies without atmosphere.

  • Aerospike

    I more or less agree with you.

    However I disagree on your logic of “no starships zipping around -> controlled nuclear fusion = impossible”. While that would be one possible explanation, it is not the only possibility.

    It is basically a different shade of green of the Fermi Paradox: We don’t know yet if there is actually anybody out there, that could be zipping around in any kind of starship.

  • Larry J

    The military has considered Space Solar Power (SSP) as a possible alternate energy at remote forward operating bases (FOBs). In dangerous places like Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s too risky to deliver fuel for diesel generators by truck. Instead, they end up delivering it by helicopter. This tends to drive the delivered cost to as much as $300 a gallon. They’re already trying solar panels and wind turbines where applicable. SSP at a FOB would require a rectantenna array. If you tighten the focus of the downlink beam for higher energy density, the array wouldn’t have to be as large as what you’d normally want for civilian applications. None of this has gone beyond the study phase.

  • Larry J

    It all depends on the energy density of the downlink. For most purposes, the energy density is low enough that there wouldn’t be any problems. I worked on the Cobra Dane phased array radar back in 1990. It was a 16 megawatt radar. I asked the Raytheon contractors why the birds I saw flying in front of the array face weren’t being fried. They said the energy density was too low and that the beams didn’t focus until many miles from the face.

  • Larry J

    You can substantially lower the costs of putting objects into GEO by first putting them into GTO and using electric thrusters to raise the perigee and lower inclination. They’re already building satellites using this strategy. It greatly reduces the satellite’s launch mass. SSP could build independent modules that can be launched on existing (or soon to exist) rockets. Once in GEO, they attach to one another to form a larger system. It’d be similar in concept to AESA radars.

  • Jeff2Space

    JAXA has successfully demonstrated sending 10 kilowatts of power 500 meters (in distance) to an antenna that looks to be about 60 square meters in size. That’s quite a bit of power for a receiver that’s not “huge” by my standards.

  • windbourne

    Use a drone.
    For military, put a drone at say 10-20 km altitude.
    For rescue, run down around 5km.

    Then have multiple transmitters underneath that will send to much much smaller antennas.

  • TomDPerkins

    There is no rational reason not to pursue this even now on the scale proposed by the DoD for FOPs. Beam spread is a non-issue, power transmission efficiency has already been demonstrated through the lower atmosphere across a distance of 92 miles with an efficiency not falling below 80%, beams from space have an easier time of it.

    There is no reason to permit the fact that exploitation of space resources will spur the militarization of space to delay it–such is inevitable and not even more regrettable than the need for ubiquitous fire extinguishers. Any space resource above a certain density is already a kinetic FOB, just add guidance.

    There is also no reason not to employ lunar resources to create the SPS, and there is no reason thereby why the installed cost of the SPS’s will be above a few 10’s of dollars per pound*. An SPS can be illuminated 99% of the time with 100% insolation and can itself be designed for optical rectennae operation without regard to the optical transmission characteristics of the atmosphere–they will be drastically more efficient that ground based solar.

    *Certain fools who remain trapped in the cost-plus mentality have no idea of the extent to which cheaper is not merely better, it is mandatory if we are not to remain a single planet species. It is “hobby rockets” at a $/lb to LEO cost below 100$ which will make us a whole solar system exploiting species.

  • TomDPerkins

    “Space power being beamed to earth makes very little sense for general purpose.”

    This decade or the next, but it’s a long century.

  • TomDPerkins

    “Assuming that the rest of the world will rise up and consume energy like we do.”

    Oh sure. The “brown” people love their ill lit mud huts. They won’t want a 1st world lifestyle at all.

    /sarc

  • Gary Church

    Actually, the best plan for space solar was advanced by Gerard K. O’Neill back in the 70’s: using factories on the Moon to build the arrays instead of hauling it all out of Earth’s gravity well. That space solar advocates have for the most part always rejected this in favor of one or another cheap workaround means they have always been their own worst enemies. O’Neill nailed it and there is no cheap.

  • Gary Church

    “-by far most expensive, dangerous, vulnerable and inflexible power production method ever imagined.”

    That would be fossil fuels- except it is not imagined and has cost trillions in overseas adventures and hundreds of thousands of lives just in the last decade due to the conflicts it has generated.

  • TomDPerkins

    “O’Neill nailed it and there is no cheap.”

    The efforts of “new space” have already destroyed the crony capitalist “cost plus” model of space access, and they will lower the cost further to be below 50$/lb to LEO within the next twenty years if the market develops as expected.

    The top end of the cost to orbit a pound is between 100$ to 250$ per pound to LEO.

    That will be on a “hobby rocket”.

  • TomDPerkins

    An idiot knows the cost of something but not the value of it, and then opens his mouth wide, and removes all doubt.

    We are able to have an other than subsistence level economy of poor farmers because of the exploitation of fossil fuels.

  • Gary Church

    “Certain fools notwithstanding-”

    I have to disagree and brand NewSpace the fools game. Only vast governmental resources and state-sponsored Super Heavy Lift Vehicles can create a cislunar infrastructure. Look past all the hype and infomercials over the past ten years and see the actual results- and you will understand why “hobby rocket” is the best descriptor.

  • TomDPerkins

    At a cost of $8,000/lb to LEO and higher–in contrast to there being no be cheap–at that price there is no cislunar infrastructure.

  • Gary Church

    I understand from long experience how this works- you and others here are going to try and goad me into returning fire and then demand I be banned. So inferring someone is a fool and idiot is in your mind completely acceptable- not a thing wrong with it at all.

    I consider it the technique of a bunch of malicious juvenile creeps who don’t have a shred of integrity in their whole rotten mob.

    My only option is to continue to contribute while the sycophants that squat here get more shrill and insulting or just go away. Or Doug can decide the whole matter and ban me before this completely predictable sordid mess plays out yet again. It is up to him and those that consider this site their schoolyard and bully who they choose.

  • TomDPerkins

    I don’t want you banned Gary. Your shtick is far too flat-earth, Baghdad Bob amusing.

  • Gary Church

    I believe the flagship company was hauling stuff to the space station to nowhere for about 80,000 a kg. Is that what you are basing this argument on?

    Transporting a worthwhile payload to the Moon is not going to be cheap. Nuclear aircraft carriers and stealth bombers are also not cheap. If you want to argue there is no connection then go ahead but I think most people can understand the level of technology involved if it is explained to them.

    They then accept the cost of doing business.

    Being scammed with the old something-for-nothing promise is the path to failure.

  • TomDPerkins

    “I believe the flagship company was hauling stuff to the space station to nowhere for about 80,000 a kg.”

    You should quit lying now, because that’s not the cost of it.

    “Transporting a worthwhile payload to the Moon is not going to be cheap.”

    It will be about $60 to $70/lb by the end of the century if not before, and that’s if for some reason we stay with liquid fuel combustion rockets.

  • Gary Church

    “Shtick” and other such name-calling is what you guys do- and think it is OK. Do you actually believe that anyone accepts your B.S. line that you don’t want me banned?

    NewSpace has been doing this for so many years they believe their own arrogance and horrible manners are all just good fun. Anyone who dares to criticize their fantasy world must deserve such treatment. It is called cognitive dissonance.

  • Kapitalist

    Iraq and Afghanistan DANGEROUS??? That’s so laughable! Those are the most primitive and poorest countries in the world. No one is more harmless than they are. They actively strive for going back to the stone age nomadic culture they were invaded and reduced to 1200 years or so ago. Iraq and Afghanistan are the easiest to conquer states in the world. If the US failed doing so, it failed on purpose. No other explanation is plausible.

  • Gary Church

    Calling someone a liar when they are telling the truth is pretty bad.

    Prove me wrong. Divide the cost of services by the pounds delivered and then apologize.

  • Kapitalist

    10 km altitude? That’s like putting solar reflectors on passenger aircrafts. What are you talking about? What benefits would that give compared with solar panels on the ground (or cabled connection to some real electricity production facility)?

  • Gary Church

    Better watch your mouth with that garbage around veterans- they will hurt you. I might just take a swing at you and I was never even deployed.

  • TomDPerkins

    “No one is more harmless than they are.”

    Not if you have reason to be there. AK47’s work fine even when the receiver is hand made and the receiver hammered out from a shovel blade.

    “Iraq and Afghanistan … explanation is plausible.”

    The tinfoil is not supposed to cover your mouth AND nose. Beware anoxia.

  • Kapitalist

    The space station has cost 150-200 BILLION dollars to assemble. Could you please compare what that kind of investment for 450 tons in LEO delivers with what the same investment would deliver in terms of power plants on Earth? Btw, how much does an electric thruster off the shelf cost today?

    Space solar power is not sustainable. It requires continuous launches to maintain the aging garbage. Few things launched will last more than ten years.(And I’ve before here raised other huge problems with this crazy concept)

  • TomDPerkins

    You aren’t telling truth. The cost to orbit with a Falcon 9 with the expendable flight profile is about $2,100.00 right now.

    I have proved you wrong.

    You can lie by including costs that have nothing to do with it.

    And you will.

  • TomDPerkins

    Why are you assuming an SPS system would be put together like the ISS, let alone all materials lifted from Earth at Shuttle/Apollo pricing?

  • TomDPerkins

    I already know from the BS you have already accepted that I don’t need to care what you say or claim. No, I don’t want you banned.

    You’re too much fun.

    You are laughable and will be mocked. I don’t give one let alone two sh!ts how you reply. You have no credibility, you can’t bother me.

  • Gary Church

    I do not think it will develop as expected. The space station to nowhere is deteriorating and when burning pieces of it fall in the ocean there will be no investors lined up to sink their money into LEO tourist blow-up tents. There in no chance at all of a ROI. The efforts of NewSpace are….illusory.

    Perhaps the best comparison is 18 and kaboom vs 100 and climbing. At one fifth the price of ULA the flagship product blew up at almost exactly one fifth the number of flights. They have not flown anyone despite being paid for it but they are launching commercial satellites for profit. And it goes on and on but all the fans know is what they want. So there is not much point in my continuing with further criticism.

  • TomDPerkins

    “So there is not much point in my continuing with further criticism.”

    True. Other than comic relief, you can not possibly add anything to the conversation.

  • Kapitalist

    @TomDParkins Yes I do. Because it will! As things look right now. NASA-US-international cooperation that will all just add to the bottom line bill. It always has. Private companies might get their costs down, but the gov won’t. They have no incentive. Some DoD guy could stuff some cash into his own pocket by financing this ridiculous “study”. That’s all there was to it.

  • Gary Church

    That is why space solar advocates have always been their own worst enemies and not much more credible than space elevator nuts: lifting the millions (yes millions) of tons of space power components out of Earth’s gravity well is a non-starter.

    The energy required to lift such masses off the Moon and transit cislunar space to GEO is a small fraction.

  • Gary Church

    Sticks and stones.

  • Kapitalist

    @Magnumpushdagger:disqus Actually, fossil fuels are fossil. They are dead minerals extracted from the largely dead underworld. I rather burn that than murdering and incarcerating living life form such as bio fuel. I want to protect the wildlife.

    I don’t even know how “the environment” is defined, could someone please explain that to me? The word “environment” seems to mean: “Everything all around”. How could such a fluffy concept even become a policy? What does environmentalism mean?

  • TomDPerkins

    You’ve thrown enough unprovoked sticks and stones Gary, that for you to write it is itself an example of your cluelessness.

  • Gary Church

    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/commercial-crew-cuts/#comments
    August 29, 2015 at 8:50 am

    SpaceX CRS contract calls for the delivery of 20 Metric Tons Cargo to the ISS for $1.6 B. That is $80,000/kg.

    I worked in shuttle cargo integration for a while and there were
    detailed analysis of the costs of MPLM payload delivery (even taking out the mass of any packing material) on a standard utilization flight. The figure was around $70,000/kg.

    SpaceX CRS is, therefore, 14% more expensive than Shuttle to operate.