Peter Garretson on 21st Century Space Policy

Elements of a 21st century space policy by Peter Garretson in The Space Review.

5) Establish a lead agency—preferably ARPA-E—with a clear mandate and initial funding for space-based solar power, for a developmental program to achieve long-term economic viability. While the concept is not yet at a point where a mega-program is required, SBSP is at least as promising and scalable as fusion, and deserves a commensurate developmental program. There would be strong benefits to an international effort to experiment and demonstrate component technologies, analogous to ITER. Both Japan and ESA have developmental efforts, and the US should play a leadership role in the greenest of all renewable energy technologies, that is also potentially the largest and most lucrative global utility and launch market.

Space Solar Power has not done well historically under NASA, as it has viewed it as a distraction from human and robotic exploration, and does not consider energy or commercialization in its mandate. NASA would do better as a supporting supplier of technology to a DOE office with a specific mandate, such as ARPA-E, which has a mandate to foster research and development of transformational energy-related technologies, and holds the purse strings.

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