Solar power gathered in space could be set to provide the renewable energy of the future thanks to innovative research being carried out by engineers at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
The project is part of a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) study led by John Mankins of Artemis Innovation. The University of Strathclyde represents the European section of an international consortium involving American researchers, and a Japanese team, led by Professor Nobuyuki Kaya of the University of Kobe, a world leader in wireless power transmission.
The NIAC study is demonstrating a new conceptual design for large scale solar power satellites. The role of the team at the University of Strathclyde is to develop innovative solutions for the structural elements and new solutions for orbit and orbit control.
Researchers at the University have already tested equipment in space that would provide a platform for solar panels to collect the energy and allow it to be transferred back to earth through microwaves or lasers.
This unique development would provide a reliable source of power and could allow valuable energy to be sent to remote areas in the world, providing power to disaster areas or outlying areas that are difficult to reach by traditional means.
Dr. Massimiliano Vasile, of the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, who is leading the space based solar power research, said: “Space provides a fantastic source for collecting solar power and we have the advantage of being able to gather it regardless of the time of the day or indeed the weather conditions.
“In areas like the Sahara desert where quality solar power can be captured, it becomes very difficult to transport this energy to areas where it can be used. However, our research is focusing on how we can remove this obstacle and use space based solar power to target difficult to reach areas.
“By using either microwaves or lasers we would be able to beam the energy back down to earth, directly to specific areas. This would provide a reliable, quality source of energy and would remove the need for storing energy coming from renewable sources on ground as it would provide a constant delivery of solar energy.
“Initially, smaller satellites will be able to generate enough energy for a small village but we have the aim, and indeed the technology available, to one day put a large enough structure in space that could gather energy that would be capable of powering a large city.”
Last month, a team of science and engineering students at Strathclyde developed an innovative ‘space web’ experiment which was carried on a rocket from the Arctic Circle to the edge of space.
The experiment, known as Suaineadh – or ‘twisting’ in Scots Gaelic, was an important step forward in space construction design and demonstrated that larger structures could be built on top of a light-weight spinning web, paving the way for the next stage in the solar power project.
Dr. Vasile added: “The success of Suaineadh allows us to move forward with the next stage of our project which involves looking at the reflectors needed to collect the solar power.
“The current project, called SAM (Self-inflating Adaptable Membrane) will test the deployment of an ultra light cellular structure that can change shape once deployed. The structure is made of cells that are self-inflating in vacuum and can change their volume independently through nanopumps.
“The structure replicates the natural cellular structure that exists in all living things. The independent control of the cells would allow us to morph the structure into a solar concentrator to collect the sunlight and project it on solar arrays. The same structure can be used to build large space systems by assembling thousands of small individual units.”
This advisory announcement is to update everyone that the selection and assignments of the top 10 ambassadors from the Space Ambassadors Program will not be announced at the National Space Society’s 2012 International Space Development Conference. The selection announcement is being deferred to a future ISDC. We hope at that time to have additional opportunities for participating Ambassadors.
The National Space Society would like to thank everyone for the ongoing efforts at the grassroots level to inspire, educate, and communicate the daily life benefits of space exploration and research, and for all who are participating in this outreach program. We hope the experience is as fulfilling to you as it is important to your communities and all of our futures.
The National Space Society (NSS) calls on Congress to ease export control regulations on spacecraft and related items, as urged by the Departments of Defense and State in their recent, joint “Section 1248″ report, “Risk Assessment of the United States Space Export Control Policy.”
This report concluded that spacecraft and their components, designated as dual-use items, can safely be removed from the U.S. Munitions List (USML), which is controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) by the Department of State.
Once off the USML, the report recommends that these items be placed on the Commerce Control List (CCL) managed by the Department of Commerce. Experts maintain that a failure to implement this change not only would continue to cause harm to the American space industrial base, but could actually pose a threat to national security and potentially impede current and future space exploration efforts.
“For many years, the U.S. space industrial base has been at a competitive disadvantage with other countries due to outdated and overly burdensome licensing processes under ITAR,” said NSS Executive Director, Paul E. Damphousse. “The U.S space export control system has created delays, driven up costs, and severely hampered the ability of the American space industry to compete in an increasingly global market, and this situation must not be allowed to continue.”
A distinguished panel of export control policy experts will discuss the recommendations outlined in the Section 1248 report at NSS’s upcoming International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Washington, DC May 24-28, 2012. Patricia Cooper of the Satellite Industry Association will moderate the panel, which will include representatives from the Defense Department, Tauri Group, Bigelow Aerospace and the Universities Space Research Association. For more information about media access to the panel, please visit isdc.nss.org/2012 or email ISDC2012.Media@nss.org.
NSS believes that implementation of these recommendations will serve to bolster critical American space industries vital to space development and lead to increased cooperation in space exploration initiatives with our international partners. NSS agrees with the report’s goal, which is to urge Congress to enact legislation to “create higher walls around fewer items” and support the health and leadership of the U.S. space industrial base.
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Bigelow Aerospace (BA) have agreed to conduct a joint marketing effort focused on international customers. The two companies will offer rides on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, using the Falcon launch vehicle to carry passengers to Bigelow habitats orbiting the Earth.
According to Bigelow Aerospace’s President and Founder, Robert T. Bigelow, “We’re very excited to be working with our colleagues at SpaceX to present the unique services that our two companies can offer to international clientele. We’re eager to join them overseas to discuss the substantial benefits that BA 330 leasing can offer in combination with SpaceX transportation capabilities.”
The BA 330 is a habitat that will provide roughly 330 cubic meters of usable volume and can support a crew of up to six. Bigelow Aerospace plans to connect two or more BA 330s in orbit to provide national space agencies, companies, and universities with unparalleled access to the microgravity environment.
“SpaceX and BA have a lot in common. Both companies were founded to help create a new era in space enterprise,” said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. “Together we will provide unique opportunities to entities — whether nations or corporations — wishing to have crewed access to the space environment for extended periods. I’m looking forward to working with Bigelow Aerospace and engaging with international customers,” Shotwell explained.
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will be capable of carrying seven passengers to orbit. With the company’s Falcon family of rockets, SpaceX says it is working to create the world’s safest human spaceflight system.
The companies will kick off their marketing effort in Asia. Representatives from Bigelow and SpaceX will meet with officials in Japan shortly after the next launch of the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft. That launch has a May 19th target date with a backup on May 22nd.
The Global Space Solar Power Working Group (Global SSP-WG) has held its first meeting at the European Space Agency in Paris, France. All of the world’s major SSP players were represented, except for the Chinese. National Space Society CEO Mark Hopkins had the honor of representing NSS.
The Global SSP-WG, organized under the auspices of the prestigious International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), was created for the most part as a response to the very supportive IAA study of SSP (Space Solar Power: the First International Assessment…), which was published last fall. This report was the subject of NSS’ November 14, 2011 press conference, a video of which can be seen on the NSS website.
The purpose of the Global SSP-WG is to facilitate communication and, where appropriate, cooperation between the players in the international SSP community. It will meet physically in conjunction with the IAA’s semi-annual conferences, the next of which will be held in Naples, Italy. John Mankins is the Executive Secretary of the organization. NSS expects to help with education and publicity efforts and possibly via our status as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations.
In November 2010, the IAA held the first Heads of Space Agencies Summit in Washington, D.C. The heads of 20 of the world’s space agencies were in attendance, including NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. The IAA plans to hold the second Heads of Space Agencies Summit in 2013. Current plans call for roughly a dozen topics to be discussed at this meeting. There is a good chance that SSP will be one of these topics, a possibility that the Global SSP-WG will encourage.
During the Global SSP-WG meeting, Susumu Sasaki from JAXA (loosely the Japanese equivalent of NASA) reported that the current phase of their SSP program is virtually complete and that the next phase of their program should produce a demonstration satellite four years from now.
Leopold Summerer, head of the European Space Agency’s Advanced Concepts Team, explained that they will probably produce a new SSP reference architecture soon. This will take into account the numerous relevant technical advances and insights that have occurred since the completion of the previous architecture.
John Mankins discussed the progress in the relatively small NASA SSP program that he heads. This program began in fall of 2011. NSS plays a substantial role in the educational outreach part of the program. NSS’ 2012 International Space Development Conference will be used to provide a report to the public of the preliminary results of the first phase of the program.
The Chinese SSP program is largely secret. Apparently, they completed the first phase of their program last summer and are now engaged in a second phase at a substantially higher level of funding. It is plausible that at the time of the Paris meeting, the Chinese were spending more on SSP than the rest of the world combined.
The Chinese are famous for their long-range planning. Wang Xiji, a founder of the Chinese space program and leading Chinese space expert has said concerning SSP, “Whoever takes the lead in the development and utilization of clean and renewable energy and the space and aviation industry will be the world leader.”
NSS’ Mark Hopkins said “Wang Xiji is correct in his assessment. Space Solar Power has enormous potential in completely solving Earth’s long-term energy needs, providing unlimited clean energy deliverable to any part of the world.”
We are pleased to announce that the following individuals have been confirmed as featured meal speakers for the 2012 International Space Development Conference later this month:
Mark Sirangelo, Chairman, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, as the Keynote Speaker at the 25th Anniversary Governors Dinner and Gala on Friday, May 25th. Mr. Sirangelo will also present the Space Pioneer Awards to John Glenn and Scott Carpenter.
Michael Lopez-Alegria, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, as the Keynote Luncheon Speaker on Saturday, May 26th.
Rick Tumlinson, Founder, The EarthLight Institute, as the Keynote Luncheon Speaker on Sunday, May 27th.
These speakers supplement previously-announced Keynote Speakers: Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, and Lori Garver, Deputy NASA Administrator, Eric Anderson of Planetary Resources, Inc., and Jeff Greason, President of XCOR Aerospace.
For more information on these noted individuals, as well as all of our other featured speakers and VIPs, please visit the ISDC Speakers and VIPs page. If you haven’t yet registered for ISDC 2012, please visit the registration page today. Registration rates go up on May 21 and the last day to register for these and all other ISDC meals is May 20.
On May 7 the Executive Office of the President Office of Management and Budget issued a Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 5326 − Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013.
The statement included the following section on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), quoted in full:
The Administration strongly opposes the level of funding provided for the commercial crew program, which is $330 million below the FY 2013 Budget request, as well as restrictive report language that would eliminate competition in the program. This would increase the time the United States will be required to rely solely on foreign providers to transport American astronauts to and from the space station. While the Administration appreciates the overall funding level provided to NASA, the bill provides some NASA programs with unnecessary increases at the expense of other important initiatives.
Moonandback Media has released a 2-part video interview of NSS Executive Director Paul E. Damphousse about his background, NSS goals, and the upsoming International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in Washington DC later this month.
Part 1 (6 minutes) about Paul’s background and NSS goals:
Part 2 (4 minutes) about the upcoming ISDC:
You can find many more space-related interviews at Moonandback.com, an excellent space news website with emphasis on the personal and commercial spaceflight industry.