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Space Power

Public Discussion Opened on Space Solar Power 195

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the armchair-influence dept.
eldavojohn writes "The National Security Space Office (NSSO), an office of the DoD, has taken a novel approach to a study they are doing on space based solar power. They've opened a public forum for it and are interested in anyone and everyone's expertise, experience and ideas on the best means to harvest energy in space. I suppose this is similar to the DoD's $1 million for an energy pack just without the award. Still, if you want to have an influence on the US's plans in space, this would be an easy armchair place to start. Space.com also has more on the details."
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Public Discussion Opened on Space Solar Power

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  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:40PM (#19987373) Homepage Journal
    Interestingly it was Gerard O'Neill who argued in the 1970's for solar power satellites constructed from lunar material and, as part of that argument predicted the industrialization of China would lead to increased CO2 emissions from coal burning that would mandate radical restructuring of global energy technology. It may be too late now to pursue nonterrestrial material SPS since the baby boomer generation, raised and educated to pioneer space from childhood, was denied that opportunity by --- well that is the question of the millennium if not the epoch isn't it? There are almost as many answers to that question as there are religions.

    The proximate cause was that despite there being an obvious direction in place subsequent to the space race (remember the Apollo program?) that could have been followed through to space industrialization -- the launch service industry did not enjoy the same protection from government competition that the satellite industry enjoyed [presageinc.com]:

    * (c) Private enterprise; access; competition

    In order to facilitate this development and to provide for the widest possible participation by private enterprise, United States participation in the global system shall be in the form of a private corporation, subject to appropriate governmental regulation. It is the intent of Congress that all authorized users shall have nondiscriminatory access to the system; that maximum competition be maintained in the provision of equipment and services utilized by the system; that the corporation created under this chapter be so organized and operated as to maintain and strengthen competition in the provision of communications services to the public; and that the activities of the corporation created under this chapter and of the persons or companies participating in the ownership of the corporation shall be consistent with the Federal antitrust laws.

    It wasn't until 1990, when a coalition of grassroots groups across the country lobbied hard for 3 years [geocities.com], that similar legislation got passed for launch services.

    The fact that Malthusian paradigm didn't precisely follow the Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" model [majorityrights.com] doesn't change the reality of the Malthusian paradigm given a fundamentally limited biosphere undergoing its largest extinction event in 60 million years. The Club of Rome merely added academic fashion to the urgency of the Malthusian situation still facing the biosphere. The 1970s was the right time to start the drive for space industrialization based on a private launch service industry. It didn't happen, the pioneering culture that founded the US is being replaced by government policy with less pioneering cultures and now we're all facing some increasingly obvious difficulties -- not just pioneer American stock -- and not just humans.

    The cost of getting silicon into space from the lunar surface would be orders of magnitude less than launching from earth due not only to the much shallower gravity well but also due to the absence of atmosphere.

    No beanstalk needed.

    At worst a Dyneema Rotovator [slashdot.org] might be needed but probably not even that.

    First, the bulk of the materials are manufactured in space from lunar raw material transported to orbital facilities so you don't need to land those facilities on the lunar surface, and you don't have to worry about g-loading the raw materials you are sending to the orbital facilities.

    Second, you don't manufacture everything in space -- only bulky materials like solar cells, reflectors, structural members and perhaps klystrons. Only residual materials (raw and manufactured) are of terrestria

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      We got us a copy and paste-er

      http://www.futurepundit.com/mt/mt-altcomments.cgi? entry_id=3880 [futurepundit.com]

    • I saw Dr. O'Neill give a presentation on this in 1976 at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago (I was 9). Damn, when I think of what I thought of the Space Shuttle then, and what I think now - what a disappointment!!!

      Honestly - I don't know if the idea is feasible.
      Maybe it's technically possible, but I don't think human beings can operate and maintain such an infrastructure without individual interest trumping group interest.

      Any one of a zillion things could prevent it (individual-interest-wise):
      - incomplete fu
      • by Baldrson (78598) *
        - whack-jobs (inability to police religious fundamentalist groups, like "Free Market Fundamentalists" who will sabotage the project because it offends their faith).

        The solution to free market whack jobs -- really just private sector rent-seekers -- isn't public choice rent-seeking; it is to collect and then redistribute all economic rent -- that cannot be allocated to their true source as positive externalities (PE's like public domain technologies) -- equally to all segments of society. Anything else c

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by r_jensen11 (598210)
      You make it sound like the space programs from the 60's was for pioneering cultures are all different from today. They're not. The space program was a political maneuver in direct response to the Soviet "threat." Its goal wasn't for the sake of science, it was for the sake of pride and a sense of protection from enemy threats. The closest things we have now are North Korea secretly building nukes, Iran doing the same, China destroying all of our satellites, and right-wing religious fundamentalists going
      • by Baldrson (78598) *
        If you speak from the standpoint of the public choice rent-seekers controlling government and centralized corporate structures you're correct -- but those people aren't of the pioneering culture -- they merely pushed the pioneering cultures buttons to get it to do their bidding during Apollo, etc. The Soviets pushed on space as a propaganda tool precisely because it was so powerful a mythic symbol for their own pioneering population as well as the people of their, then, primary adversary: The USA.
      • by jafac (1449)
        They're not. The space program was a political maneuver in direct response to the Soviet "threat."

        Well, that was the mindset of the politicians who were conned into supporting and funding the programs at the time. But not of many of the fine people who did the engineering that got us there.

        Yeah - sometimes I'm afraid that we, as a nation, peaked sometime back in 1973, and are gradually sliding backwards into "Banana Republic" status. A Banana Republic with nukes. But if our politicians can be conned into
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      increased CO2 emissions from coal burning that would mandate radical restructuring of global energy technology

      As we are all aware, the whole global warming problem presented by rising levels of CO2 is that more energy is trapped here on Earth. So how is trapping more energy from the sun and sending more energy to Earth going to help the problem? Maybe the solar collector will be directly between the Sun and Earth, thus removing as much incoming solar energy as it is beaming down to our power station. But
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by delt0r (999393)
        The Earth has a radius of ~6,400km. The energy from the sun at the top of the atmosphere is about 1.3 Kw/m^2. Thats ~1.7x10^17 Watts. Its about the same as a 40 Megaton of TNT every second of every day. The amount of energy we use, either from space or from oil or from anywhere is a drop in the bucket and will be for a long time.

        The idea of blocking the sun to maintain the status quo on a climatic system we really don't understand yet, is stupid.
  • Wrong priorities? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vigmeister (1112659) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:41PM (#19987389)

    best means to harvest energy in space
    First figure out if there is an efficient way to bring this energy back to earth...

    Cheers!
    • Re:Wrong priorities? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Brandon30X (34344) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:46PM (#19987449)
      How about this?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkVlkSnoGNM [youtube.com]

      -Brandon
    • The collection SHOULD be a separate issue from the transmission of it. In fact, They would be making a mistake in trying to build a single unit to do it all. By definition, a collector is going to be pretty big and will probably be located at in very high orbits. Rather than move it around, it should have small relay points which are cheap and easy to move around. More importantly, you would be able to set up multiple power points and beam them in various areas. Such as we need power not only in Iraq, but i
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        Rather than move it around, it should have small relay points which are cheap and easy to move around. More importantly, you would be able to set up multiple power points and beam them in various areas.

        I believe that was called the Star Wars Missile Defense System... but on the serious side, that's a pretty good idea, as long as you can solve some basic problems like accurate aiming, beam attenuation through an atmosphere, etc.

        • The advantage of this, is that you really can change it around. In particular, assume that at geo-synch you have several collectors who grab data all the time. They beam down to leo via laser. From there, a spectrum may be found that can easily penetrate the upper atmosphere which strikes a slow moving plane (or higher up with one of the VERY high ballons). Then finally beams in multitudes of directions. The advantage of this, is that rather than a single stage, we use different tech depending on the laye
      • by jdray (645332)

        ...we need power not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, and perhaps even Japan could use some supplemental boosts.

        That's all well and good from a governmental standpoint (the DoD would like nothing better than to be able to deliver large amounts of energy to specific points on the Earth, some of it even to power remote bases), but the organizations that are going to make this sort of thing plausible are energy companies. Look at all the wind farms being constructed. Who's doing it? Energy companies have

    • by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:24PM (#19987915) Journal
      The traditional way to think about it is 'beaming' energy back to earth in some fashion (microwaves? laser? etc). But another way to harvest energy is to use it to refine resources in space ... use the energy to harvest or refine near earth objects (NEO) or lunar regolith. The refined material can be very valuable (there are high concentrations of rare and precious metals in NEO's), and then shipped back to earth more conventionally. Or used to construct in orbit.
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        Ok, this is going to sound crazy (but when has that ever stopped me?), but who needs to beam the energy anywhere? Introducing: space wires. Hey , if someone can come up with the seemingly hare-brained idea of the space elevator to haul things up out of the gravity well, then how about lines running down from space to transmission points on the ground? Yes, I know... feasibility is an issue, but hey that's part of the fun!

        • You can just use long, dragging wires in space to generate current ... but its coming from the kinetic energy of your vehicle, so you will deorbit. Conversely, you can pump current into the wires and give your station a boost ... check out the experiment (STS-75 IIRC)

          Dropping them down to the ground has the problem of needing to self-suspend. IE, a geostationary satellite has to suspend 35,768km of copper wire. That's why the space tether people are constructing from carbon fibre...
          • by jafac (1449)
            . . . or we could just spin-up these huge-ass gyroscopes, and then drop them from orbit, and they can be picked up and connected to generators, then when they spin down, we can shoot them back up into space to be spun back up!
      • by Intron (870560)
        Given that all space projects in the US are run by and for DOD, the added benefit of "beaming" is the ability to focus the beam of energy on undesireable features on the surface of the Earth. Think long and hard about who gets the joystick that aims this thing.
    • by StCredZero (169093) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:30PM (#19987991)
      Microwave Rectennas would enable the transport of power back to the Earth's surface just fine. The radiation is relatively diffuse, non-ionizing, and would do no more to birds flying overhead than heat them up.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_satellite [wikipedia.org]

      Unlimited Solar Power, a burgeoning Space Program, and free cooked poultry falling from the sky! What more could you ask for?
    • Everyone's so focused on "beaming" the energy down. How boring.

      I think we should have a gigantic kinetic-energy capturing device in the middle of a desert. Something akin to a bicycle pedal that turns a wheel. Then, you chuck massive rocks at it from space.

      You can even turn it into a international sport. If you hit, the wheel spins, and your country gets the generated energy and another toss. If you miss, you cause a mucking huge "explosion", make a crater, and give the launcher up to the next team.

  • by MOBE2001 (263700)
    With the internet age of mass communication and cros-pollination of ideas, we are seeing the dawning of the democratization of science. Science, like religion before it, has enclosed itself within walls beyond public scrutiny. This age-old incestuous practice is in the process of changing before your very eyes. I hope we see more experiments like this in the future.
    • The basic problem is still there, to actually do the math and make credible figures, takes a lot of time and actual math.

      Average people might make suggestions, but too often, won't understand why it's not feasible.
      • by ArsonSmith (13997)
        Different people have different talents and understanding levels. I build all kinds of things that require large amounts of math to calculate chemical reactions and fiber reinforcements although I have no real training. People always ask me how I do it and all I can say is "I don't really know. I just do." I can look at certain things and just see the process used to make it.

        Of course for a completed real world working device on something this scale I wouldn't want to build it by the seat of my pants th
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eviloverlordx (99809)

      With the internet age of mass communication and cros-pollination of ideas, we are seeing the dawning of the democratization of science. Science, like religion before it, has enclosed itself within walls beyond public scrutiny. This age-old incestuous practice is in the process of changing before your very eyes. I hope we see more experiments like this in the future.

      Really? You must never have gone to a (public) university library. Plenty of science there for one to scrutinize. One just has to get off one

      • Really? You must never have gone to a (public) university library. Plenty of science there for one to scrutinize. One just has to get off one's duff and look for it, rather than expect that it will be delivered to them for no effort.

        Link, please?
  • by KillerCow (213458) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:55PM (#19987585)
    Dear Slashdot,
        please do our homework for us.

    Sincerely,
      The National Security Space Office (NSSO), an office of the DoD

    P.S. we won't use your ideas to kill or oppress people*

    *actually, we will.
    • by Chris Burke (6130)
      Damnit, that asterisk was supposed to have <redacted> </redacted> tags so that Slashdotters couldn't read it!
    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      On a serious note, I think one of the best qualities a leader can have is knowing there is always someone more knowledgeable about a certain subject.. and being willing to ask that person for advice. I think this public forum is a great idea.
  • Anyone thought about just putting mirrors in space to concentrate and reflect higher intensity of sunlight back to solar power stations on earth?

    I would imagine it would be cheaper than trying to hoist an entire solar power station into space, easier to upgrade as more efficient solar power methodology is developed and not suffer from trying to find the RF bandwidth to beam the energy back.
    • I have thought of this idea before. I also think it could double nicely as a weapon.
    • by Billosaur (927319) *

      One word... ants.

      • by Kythe (4779)
        Sorta brings home, doesn't it, how much more difficult it will be to put not only a mirror (which has to be aligned) into space, but an entire solar power station up there instead.
  • Fascinating subject (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RyanFenton (230700) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:55PM (#19987595)
    I've been on-and-off interested in this subject for years now - the prospect of being able to gather solar energy more directly, even with horribly inneficient technique, would be a complete transformation in terms of our ability to gather energy for human use.

    Three basic problematic areas:

    1. Return Delivery for energy. A beam would be the most obvious approach, as no conventional matter would be easilly sustained without something like a space elevator bringing enriched material up and down constantly. An exception would be antimatter, though that would be horribly dangerous on a scale that would make any concentrated beam mishap look like nothing.

    2. Energy effects on the earth. Increased energy use, in any form, is going to have various effects on our ecosystem. We'll have to devote a percentage of our global energy use to offset this in some way, hopefully without a tragedy of the commons effect leftover.

    3. Upkeep: Materials break down when they transfer the kinds of energy under consideration here. This won't just be a simple solar-panel install job in space. The materials involved will have to be self-repairing in some way if they're going to get closer and closer to the sun. Perhaps they'll function by 'flowing' with the solar winds, then reforming at the front. This promises to be a fascinating task for engineers and scientists looking to harvest such enormous resources safely and (relatively) efficiently.

    Every aspect of this subject bristles with the various concerns of humanity - it'll be interesting to say the least what this group can go over.

    Ryan Fenton
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)
      I think one way to do this would be to use a beam but instead of one giant solar collecting satellite dumping a huge laser beam to a spceific spot and hope it doesn't miss, why not have several smaller satellites each generating only enough power to maybe give you or something a bad sunburn. Then focus all of them to a single boiler or collector of some kind.

      This would help to solve the scare of a huge beam missing and the worry of maintaining equipment that focuses excessive amounts of power through one p
      • Yeah, but then the problem arises in the logistics of putting up countless "weak" satellites presumeably in earth orbit, each with high inefficiency. That's a problem that could be solved, by say having nano-machines mine materials from low-gravity sources - but that kind of an idea is still way off.

        If you want a reasonable return on the energy and material investment, I'd think that a concentrated return kind of has to be part of the process - which brings up the problem of what materials you can possibly
  • by Arthur B. (806360) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:59PM (#19987637)
    Build a giant parabolic mirror on the moon, from moon material and use (solar powered) motors to make it point to a specific location on earth. Alternatively, point it on the Whitehouse unless they pay $1,000,000,000,000,000,000
  • Impossible? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @02:59PM (#19987643) Homepage
    I'm reading the public forum, and someone ran the math and said that it would take 10,000 years to build a solar array [wordpress.com] large enough to replace our current energy use. The limiting factor is how hard it is to move something that large and heaving into orbit.

    If these figures are accurate, then this is a pointless endeavor.
    • But this is NOT about replacing. It is about giving emergency and quick response times a hand. Such as when Katrina (or any hurricane) happened, or earthquakes, etc happens. If power can be sent to these places BEFORE emergency crews have started in, then it gives them a fighting chance to help ppl.
    • by cmowire (254489)
      Your presentation assumes that the solar arrays would be launched from earth on current launch vehicles.

      This means that either we need to build better launch vehicles so as to send up more cargo on a single launch or start building them in space.

      The second one ought to work out quite well, considering that most metal refinery plants are build in close proximity to power plants for a good reason...
    • by FleaPlus (6935)
      I'm reading the public forum, and someone ran the math and said that it would take 10,000 years to build a solar array large enough to replace our current energy use. The limiting factor is how hard it is to move something that large and heaving into orbit.

      There's some pretty strong assumptions though going into the "10,000 years" figure. The first is that it would need to replace -all- our energy use. If space solar power only replaced a few percent of our energy usage, but at an economical price, it would
      • If there were demand for it, one could imagine that something like the Sea Dragon (which would have lift capacity of ~550 metric tons to LEO compared to ~25 metric tons for a Delta 4 Heavy) could be mass-produced.

        Oh, don't be a wimp. How about this puppy [nuclearspace.com] which can lift 1,000 tons to orbit, is fully reusable, and has totally non-polluting exhaust! (Unless you're allergic to helium or something...)

        • by FleaPlus (6935)
          Oh, don't be a wimp. How about this puppy [nuclearspace.com] which can lift 1,000 tons to orbit, is fully reusable, and has totally non-polluting exhaust! (Unless you're allergic to helium or something...)

          Neat, but politically impossible. I mean, our government won't even allow breeder reactors.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      What is it with people and this ridiculous belief that *one* solution is going to solve all of our power problems. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it ain't gonna happen that way. Migrating away from carbon is gonna involve multiple, complementary technologies, not some single magic bullet. Nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, geotherm... all these technologies and more will be involved.
  • silly idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uncreativeslashnick (1130315) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:23PM (#19987897)
    This represents an extraordinarilly expensive solution to a non-existent problem. We already have access to cheap, clean, and reliable power production facilities right here on Earth. It's called nuclear power.
    • It becomes a lot less expensive if there's a cheaper way to get stuff to orbit. Something like this [nuclearspace.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by delt0r (999393)
      Well both clean and safe is somewhat debatable. If we don't reprocess the fuel we get lots of waste and theres a fuel shortage (long term). If we do reprocess the fuel we get less waste and *heaps* more fuel but the waste is much harder to deal with and there are proliferation problems.

      Critical reactors just don't do it for me. They are hard to turn off. But sub critical reactors sound like the ticket. Need to do some R&D to get the accelerators up to spec. But then they can even burn nuclear waste.
  • has taken a novel approach [...] They've opened a public forum [..] and are interested in anyone and everyone's expertise, experience and ideas
    Confounded new-fangled thinking! If close-minded, autocratic decision-making that immediately dismissed everyone's expertise, experience and ideas was good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for me.
  • by RichPowers (998637) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:31PM (#19988003)
    As an avid SimCity 2000 player, I know that constructing large microwave dishes that receive concentrated ion beams from satellites is the best way to harvest solar energy from space. For more on ion beam satellites -- and their military uses against shadowy quasi-nationstates led by enigmatic bald men - I refer you to Command&Conquer.

    ps: I suggest building these microwave power stations far away from cities, as they occasionally explode. They're also frequent targets of large, mechanical alien spider robots.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:12PM (#19988521) Homepage
      As an avid SimCity 2000 player, I know that constructing large microwave dishes that receive concentrated ion beams from satellites is the best way to harvest solar energy from space. For more on ion beam satellites -- and their military uses against shadowy quasi-nationstates led by enigmatic bald men - I refer you to Command&Conquer.

      What about using them against shadowy quasi-nationstates led by men with mullets? That's really the more immediate need for me right now.
  • From TFA

    The Space Frontier Foundation believes there are energy and environmental benefits that could come from space-based solar power - collecting solar power in space and transmitting it back to Earth

    Oh, yeah, that minor detail of "transmitting it back to Earth" might be a bit of a hitch. Given that we have yet to find a way to reliably, efficiently, and safely "transmit" energy (particularly in these magnitudes) over any significant distance, I'd say this discussion is a little premature at best.

    • Oh, yeah, that minor detail of "transmitting it back to Earth" might be a bit of a hitch.

      That detail was figured out almost half a century ago:

      - Use radio waves with wavelengths of about a millimeter. These penetrate the atmosphere well and are not strongly absorbed by water (i.e. no major losses in clouds or cooked birds falling from the sky at design power densities.)

      - Use synthetic-aperture techniques to form a beam centered on the ground-based rectenna and pilot-carrier transmitter. L
  • Microwave Transfer? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dredson (620914)
    The article links to an article on wikipedia that suggests using microwaves to transfer the energy from space to earth. Also using a space elevator to get the solar panels into space.

    However, once there is a space elevator, there is no need for using dangerous microwaves, when you already have a direct wire going from earth to space. Just send the electricity down the wire like any terrestrial power line.

    • Just send the electricity down the wire like any terrestrial power line.

      Running a massive current through the tether, even if possible, would cause all sorts of havoc. Reduction in strength (of a material already pushing the limits of material strength). Side-forces from interactions with the earth's magnetic field (and shaking from magnetic storms varying that field) could cause all sorts of havoc.

      Then there's the issue that a transmission line doesn't carry any power inside the wire. The power is carri
      • I thought I read something once about people wanting to use tethered ribbons (not elevators) into space to actually generate electricity somehow. Has anybody else seen this, or am I just confused?
  • by bugnuts (94678) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:02PM (#19988417) Journal
    As we've witnessed, digging carbon from the earth (as crude oil and coal) and putting it into the atmosphere along with the heat energy from using it can have serious side-effects from injecting outside energy to a system in equilibrium.

    Power needs to go somewhere as some form of energy. It might do some work, but usually ends up mostly lost as heat. All lights, stoves, heaters, etc would essentially mean nearly all of the solar energy collected was as if the sun were simply shining brighter on the earth. Imagine if they were researching how to make more sunlight hit the planet just to harness it with solar cells -- this is almost exactly the same thing.

    Space energy is energy being brought into the system that wouldn't have normally entered. I don't see this as a viable form of energy. It will potentially lower greenhouse gasses, but will still screw up the ecosystem.
    • Excess heat is radiated into space. Global warming is thought to be caused by greenhouse gases changing the equilibrium that determines the "excess".

      Romans would make ice by keeping the ground in a pit cool during the day and allowing the heat energy from buckets of water in the pit to radiate into the cold night sky. As long as humidity was low enough, they made ice!

      So the issue isn't generating heat, it's greenhouse gases trapping the heat.
    • by apsmith (17989) *
      The energy involved is tiny - total human primary energy use now is 13 TW; the Earth receives 174,000 TW from the Sun. Even if we increase human energy use 10-fold thanks to space solar power, we're adding less than 0.1% to what the Earth receives.

      And note that burning fossil fuels or nuclear power also adds heat (that 13TW is almost entirely nonrenewable) and the conversion to electricity on the planet is only 35-40% efficient, so 60% of that energy is waste heat that we don't even use. With space solar po
  • About damn time. The state of our energy and environment affect more people now and in generations to come than any other issues on the news, period. I challenge you to find anything of such widespread and serious interest.

    Not so long ago India announced that it is serious [treehugger.com] about the space solar option. I'm glad there's enough good sense in Washington to do likewise. We should get Europe and China on board, because unlike the ISS, this is the real deal and more significant to our future than going to the
  • Mass drivers up the gravity well. I barely know what that means, but it was one of my favorite lines from Count Zero. :)
  • It's a pity they didn't get around to opening a public discussion on the subject back when one of the major figures in such planning was available to comment.
  • I mean, if energy is heat, wouldn't increasing the amount of energy on the earth more than it 'naturally' already receives fuck up the planet even more? I wouldn't want any harvesting of energy from space unless we developed a way to controllably release heat from the planet in an equal amount.
    • by apsmith (17989) *
      It would if human energy use grew by several orders of magnitude - but relative to current fossil or nuclear options, space solar power adds *less* energy to Earth (see discussion above). And hopefully we'll move most of our energy use into space by the time we're using that much energy.
  • Solar energy is available 24/7 in space, but it's only about 3 times better than on the surface of the earth.
    If we could put solar cells into orbit at zero cost, then a SPS system could be cheaper than current tech.
    One way to do that might be to manufacture them in space in the first place, say by using raw materials from a LEO asteroid.

    But making SPS for power on earth isn't the low hanging fruit of space.
    The first thing we should make is generic satellites.
    Imagine a standard body satellite with a solar ar
  • by bitspotter (455598) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @07:58PM (#19990631) Journal
    it's nice that thought and work are being put in to solar, and all, but putting solar collectors in space is missing out on the other major feature of solar that nuclear can't produce: decentralized generation.

    If anyone can generate their own electricity, it makes for a system which is much more robust from infrastructure failure. People can be independent and recover better from disasters, becoming more //resilient//. If you put a solar platform in orbit, then either it or the receiving stations become expensive, centralized facilities that are vulnerable single points of failure to either intentional attack or accidental failure.

    Furthermore, they foster dependency among energy consumers, making them vulnerable to abuse by monopolies in the energy industry. Enron, Dick Cheney, California... you get the idea. Of course, if you happen to BE one of these industrial monopolists, the idea of centralized production is exactly what you want - a "good thing" - for //you//. But, as usual, "consumers" have different priorities.

    Let's get solar (and perhaps wind, which shares these properties) working on Earth first.

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