National Space Society Position on Space Solar Power in Economist Magazine Debate

The Economist magazine has conducted an open, on-line forum on the topic, “Can Solar Energy Save the World,” which concluded on Friday, November 8, 2013. The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) has voted “YES” in this debate.

NSS urges that the European Union (EU) allow Space Solar Power to be given equal treatment with other sources of renewable energy as part of the European system of feed-in tariffs, which have worked for ground-based solar power to create a viable new market for energy. Feed-in tariffs are a guaranteed offer of a price and a market to generators of renewable electricity and not a tax on imported goods.

Dr. Paul Werbos, Chair of the NSS Policy Committee, said “What are some good strategies to really help develop space resources? The best strategy is one which tries to ‘kill two or three birds with one stone.’ And so, at [and reproduced below], you will see a new position statement aimed at three goals — to create new jobs where they are badly needed in the EU, to accelerate low-cost forms of solar farms on Earth, and to set the wheels in motion for serious market-oriented investment in space solar power.”


National Space Society Statement on Space Solar Power (SSP) and Feed-In Tariffs

Germany has long had a feed-in tariff system (EEG), which, among other things, guarantees a market and a price for large scale wind and solar farms. Some critics argue that these should simply be abolished, because of the damage they claim has been done to the German economy; however, the German economy seems to be doing quite well, compared to other major developed economies on Earth. The feed-in tariff is not a tax or a tariff like the tariffs we pay for imported goods; it is essentially just a guaranteed offer of a price and a market to generators of renewable electricity.

Just as we urge opening up the launch services market to more competition and new technologies, the National Space Society (NSS) also urges opening up the European electricity market to more large sources of renewable electricity. For the sake of lower energy prices, greater competition and greater economic stability, we propose that the feed-in tariff for large solar farms be extended to all solar farms in the European Union, and also to all rectennas to be located in the European Union supplying electricity from energy beamed from space.

Even just a year ago, the possibility seemed to be remote that industry might build such rectennas; however, the new design and analysis at, combined with potentially useful efforts on key technologies to reduce the cost of access to space such as the DARPA XS-1 program and private sector efforts like SpaceX and others, suggest that we should not rule out such a development.

In the market based approach, we do not choose which technology we believe in more; rather, we offer the same incentive to all forms of benign solar energy anywhere in the EU, and let suppliers decide for themselves what to invest in and where. A firm price guarantee can be very useful in stimulating the kind of private sector investment and jobs which all major economies need today. For the EU, especially, a new supply of renewable electricity would be a great thing for consumers, who otherwise would be paying for more expensive offshore wind or imported natural gas — so long as solar suppliers on Earth or in space can meet the offer price. As in the past, this should be a standing law, allowing suppliers to decide on their own schedule for deployment.

Participate in the International SunSat Competition – Over $40,000 in Prizes Will Be Awarded!

The National Space Society in affiliation with Ohio University is pleased to announce that the International SunSat Design Competition is now registering competitive teams.  This two-year project is designed to link global scientific communities with university-based (and other) digital media labs for the purposes of advancing knowledge of space-based solar power satellites (SunSats) and illustrating their many Earth-energy applications.

International SunSat Competition

If you are a space scientist, engineer, academic, business or digital media professional with an idea for moving space solar power closer to implementation, consider forming a team to join in this effort. And please forward this message to others.

In the first cycle of this competition, two First Place prizes of $10,000 and three Second Place prizes of $5,000 are expected to be awarded at the May 2014 International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles. For registered teams successfully completing the Feb. 2014 "significant progress point," an additional $1,000 incentive can be earned, and $1,000 travel assistance will be awarded to winners.

Winning entries of 2014 and 2015 will be published in the Space Journal as Issue No.18: Top SSP Designs.

To learn more, check  the SunSat Visualization Guidebook and look at the SunSat Design Competition website.

To see where the idea of a SSP Design Competition came from, take a look at SpaceJournal Issue No.16: Solar Power Satellites.

To see how Ohio University’s Game Research in Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, with the help of Georgia Institute of Technology, University of North Dakota and others in academia, has experimented with making the advanced science and technology concepts of SSP more accessible to the public, view SpaceJournal Issue No.17: Creative Visualization of Space Solar Power.

This competition is managed by Ohio University, the host institution for the Online Journal of Space Communication, but guided and juried by members of the National Space Society and the Society of Satellite Professionals International.

Space Solar Power (SSP) Workshop November 8-9, 2013

Michigan Technological University, in collaboration with professionals from NASA, the Naval Research Laboratory, and the Space Solar Power Institute, will host a Space Solar Power (SSP) workshop to clarify the challenges facing SSP implementation. Michigan Tech’s Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics departments have been actively conducting SSP research. The workshop is being offered to academics, industry professionals, and members of professional associations related to renewable energy to focus on SSP’s challenges and opportunities.

Motivation: Thirty seven states and many countries have initiated Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and other initiatives to adopt improved energy alternatives, such as ground-based solar, bio-fuel, and wind. SSP satellites, however, appear to be the most attractive of these; large-scale, baseload, low CO2 emissions, near zero fuel and water use, among other key advantages.

SSP would be large-scale solar energy collection in space and its wireless transmission to Earth for use by the customers of existing major power grids. SSP development would take advantage of many advanced technologies and promote further advances; including wireless power transmission, microwave circuits, space transportation, new communication paradigms, light and smart space-based structures, telerobotic construction and operations, photovoltaics and electric propulsion.

The International Academy of Astronautics’ SSP study advocated for the “coordination among various countries and between industry and government agencies.” Japan’s large SSP project and consortium is being emulated in China, Russia and elsewhere. This workshop intends to provide a forum for all relevant stakeholders, including energy developers and power industry representatives.

Workshop Highlights: The two-day workshop will be held on November 8-9, 2013 in conjunction with the IEEE WiSEE 2013 Conference held at the Renaissance Baltimore Harbor Place Hotel in Baltimore, MD. Presentations and keynotes will be selected from researchers, program managers, industry representatives, and academics, interspersed with topical working group discussions. The workshop aims to compare different SSP technologies, promoting discussion of these technologies, and to develop prize competition concepts resulting in significant advances in SSP systems and technologies. Participants will discuss how the efforts of existing national and international bodies might be complemented or enhanced. These working group discussions will be summarized and action items disseminated at the end of workshop.

More information.

Space Solar Power: Key to a Livable Planet Earth

The National Space Society (NSS) today announces a new space solar power international initiative. NSS endorses this initiative and will work to forge an international organization involving America, India and other nations to develop space solar power. This has the potential of solving humanity’s energy needs and greatly mitigating climate change.

The following is a joint statement of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of the Republic of India and Mr. Mark Hopkins, Executive Committee Chairman, National Space Society.

Space Solar Power: Key to a Livable Planet Earth
Joint Statement of Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Former President of the Republic of India
Mr. Mark Hopkins
Chairman of the Executive Committee, National Space Society
June 1, 2013

We, Dr. Kalam and Mr. Hopkins, have long shared humanity’s dream of all nations living together in prosperity and peace and moving forwards through global collaboration in space to meet the challenges that now face our Planet Earth. We are conscious that all nations have to strive to make our planet livable again, after centuries of devastation of its environment and ecosystems and rapid depletion of its precious mineral resources, including fossil fuels and fresh water.

Over these last three years many of our colleagues, in NSS and in India, have come together and made progress towards this international collaborative mission by sustained dialogue with mutual respect, understanding, and trust. It is essentially this process that has helped us to decide that the time has arrived for us to together attempt to give a direction and momentum to this movement to realize space solar power and its enabling technologies through international collaboration that can help rebuild our environmentally vulnerable planet.

Today, we begin working together in a well organized and well supported manner to realize such a 21st Century global collaboration; and together help to lay the structural foundation for an international collaboration to develop and deploy space solar power systems. We are aware that coalitions and collaborations work best if there is a shared mission and common goals, and effective leadership. We need to build strong, trusting relationships across nations through a participatory process with the active involvement of member nations and their institutions and organizations. We will work to develop an effective mission governance process and hope to evolve, jointly and together in international teams, clear operating procedures regarding decision-making, communications, and accountability. We shall be working together to develop a shared vision, to build strong relationships within the leadership team, and to rotate leadership roles.

Kalam and Hopkins discuss joint statement at the 2013 International Space Development Conference (ISDC).

Such a shared vision shall include specific mechanisms such as the Global Space Knowledge Platform, the International Virtual Laboratory, and the International Advisory Committee that Dr. Kalam has elaborated through discussion papers with Mr. Hopkins and his Address to the 2013 National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC 2013). We hope our international collaborative mission will act as a catalyst for a livable planet which will promote prosperity and peaceful relations within and between nations.

We shall start our team building and mission structuring phase with core members from nations who we know are already networking and who are contributing to the dream of harvesting energy from space, including the US, India, Japan, and UK. We shall also invite, as observers, representatives in relevant domains of public policy, science and technology and management systems from other space faring nations like Russia, China, and other European nations. We shall engage in open and frequent communication with people who share our values and goals in governments and societies which are important to the success of this venture. We will help accomplish this through collaborative practices that are the true hallmark of effective global cooperation for a livable planet Earth. We shall have a clear plan of action to market the idea of a livable planet Earth through space solar power to G8 or G20 nations within a year.

Towards this end, we agree to start working together by jointly identifying the core members and observer members in the joint working mechanisms that Dr. Kalam has proposed. This shall be the direction of what we must accomplish in the coming months. We shall build upon the trusting relationships we have established and consolidated these last three years between NSS, Dr. Kalam, and others in India. We shall now strive to expand this relationship in an organized and well-structured manner towards an international collaborative mission to realize space solar power for all humanity.

For more information concerning the plan, see Dr. Kalam’s June 2, 2013  address to the leaders of the Indian aerospace community and “Global Space Solar Plan Unveiled,” Aviation Week, June 3, 2013.

About Dr. Abdul Kalam: Despite coming from a poor background, which required him to work at an early age to supplement his parents’ income, Dr. Kalam obtained degrees in Physics and Aeronautical Engineering. He was project director of India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle. Dr. Kalam was subsequently responsible for the evolution of ISRO’s (India’s equivalent of NASA) launch vehicle program. From 1992 to 1999, he was the Scientific Adviser to Defense Minister of India and Secretary, Department of Defense Research & Development. Dr. Kalam was President of India from 2002 to 2007. He is known for his work with students. His 79th birthday was recognized as “World Student’s Day” by the United Nations. According to a 2010 Readers Digest poll, he is one of the two most trusted men in India. Dr. Kalam has received numerous prestigious awards including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, and the 2013 Wernher von Braun Memorial award from the National Space Society. He currently serves as the Chancellor of the Indian Institute of Space Technology, the leading institution for producing new engineers and scientists for India’s space program. Read more about Dr. Kalam at his website.

Kalam Address at ISDC: Space Solar Power – Key to a Liveable Planet Earth

Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, aerospace engineer and former President of India, presented the keynote address at the NSS International Space Development Conference on May 24 in San Diego on the subject Space Solar Power: Key to a Liveable Planet Earth.  The complete address is now available on the NSS website.

Kalam stated: “Considering the magnitude of the looming energy and environmental problems, a strong view has emerged that the situation faced by India warrants consideration of all energy options, including the concept of SSP. ISRO [Indian Space Research Organization] has recently carried out some preliminary concept studies on SSP and examined three SSP configurations. ISRO has also welcomed an International Preliminary Feasibility Study and are aware that this would call for strong and long-term cooperation between institutions in every nation blended into an International R&D programme for SSP.”

Kalam listed the following advantages of SSP:

1. Immensely Scalable. SSP can scale to provide the energy needs of the entire human civilization at well enhanced standards of living. Most other near-term renewable options are strictly limited in scalability.

2. A single kilometre-wide band of geosynchronous Earth orbit experiences enough solar flux in one year to nearly equal the amount of energy contained within all known recoverable conventional oil reserves on Earth today.

3. It is safe and globally available, and can be safely shared with all countries on this planet without proliferation concerns.

4. It is steady & assured, for SSP is a continuous, rather than intermittent, power source. It is not subject to the weather, the seasons, or the day-night cycle.

5. It needs no fundamental breakthroughs in either physics or engineering.

Kalam called for international cooperation in developing space solar power, stating “we shall embark on a path-breaking international mission for space solar power within the ambit of a global vision for space industrialization leading on to a new era of peace, prosperity and abundance for all mankind.”

10-Minute Introduction to Space Solar Power

Creative Visualizations of Space Solar Power. The videos below, totaling 10 minutes, are student productions that have been professionally mentored and peer-reviewed at Ohio University and presented at the National Space Society International Space Development Conference in San Diego in May 2013.

Sol Invictus: The Unconquered Sun – Introduction.

Sol Invictus: The Unconquered Sun – SunSats.

Sol Invictus: The Unconquered Sun – Conclusion.

Electricity is one of the most flexible, cost effective and non-polluting sources of power at the point of use. Energy from Space will be key to achieving and sustaining universal access to this form of power, since all known energy supplies on Earth will be insufficient to keep up with projected world demand for electricity

About 80% of our current energy supply is in the form of fossil fuels. Greater diversification and augmentation of energy sources is needed. To protect our planet, our long-term goal must be to find alternative energy supplies that are clean, renewable, affordable, and available to everyone. Guaranteed access to non-polluting energy is a controlling variable for local and national security, economic and social development and a good quality of life for everyone. Thus, as citizens of Planet Earth, we are fortunate that solar power satellites can now be used to reach up and harvest the abundant energy that is available just outside Earth’s atmosphere.

For more information visit Ohio University’s Online Journal of Space Communication.

Space Solar Power Workshop August 8-9 at Michigan Tech

A two-day workshop on space solar power (SSP) will be held on August 8-9, 2013, at Michican Technological University, Houghton, Michigan. Presentations and keynotes will be selected from researchers, program managers, industry representatives, and academics, interspersed with topical working group discussions. The workshop aims to compare different SSP technologies, promoting discussion of these technologies, and to develop prize competition concepts resulting in significant advances in SSP systems and technologies. Participants will discuss how the efforts of existing national and international bodies might be complemented or enhanced. These working group discussions will be summarized and action items disseminated at the end of workshop. Registration is $250 before June 30 and $300 thereafter. Co-sponsored by the Space Solar Power Institute and Upper Peninsula Power Company.

See for more information and registration.

White House petition proposes space solar power as national energy and space goal


A petition to the White House to task the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to examine space solar power (SSP) as a new energy and space goal for the U.S. has been posted on the White House WE the PEOPLE website, with a goal of 100,000 signatures by April 3, 2013.

The petition, initiated by SSP pioneer John C. Mankins, reads:


Task the Office of Science and Technology Policy to examine Space Solar Power as a new energy & space goal for the US.

New concepts make it possible for solar energy to be harvested in space and delivered 24/7 to markets in the U.S. & globally. Space solar power (SSP) could supply vast new energy while addressing climate concerns.

SSP is now being pursued by other nations (e.g., China, Japan), and energy determines preeminence in space as on Earth.

But SSP falls between the charters of U.S. technology and space agencies (DOE, DOD, NASA), so it’s “no one’s job.” These agencies have existing responsibilities and stakeholders; they are not looking for new goals.

Only the White House (OSTP) working with Congress can change the policy gridlock in the U.S. and develop a plan to lead international R&D in this game-changing energy/space endeavor.

If you agree the U.S. should lead R&D on SSP, please support this petition.

“Harvesting solar power in space and delivering clean, inexhaustible energy to humanity has been a vision for more than 40 years,” Mankins, who is currently CTO of  asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries, explained to KurzweilAI. “Now, new technologies and new concepts exist that can transform this vision into a reality.

“Within a decade, perhaps less, the first solar power satellite made from mass-produced modules could be in operation, transforming everything we do in space and the future of energy on Earth. Space solar power is both technically feasible, and could be economically viable — but only if we act to make it so.”

NASA, international studies support SSP

Mankins headed two NASA studies of SSP. During 2011 — 2012, NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program supported a preliminary Phase 1 project to investigate a transformational new approach to the concept of SSP called the SPS-ALPHA, to deliver energy to Earth.

SPS-ALPHA would typically be based in a geostationary Earth orbit (GEO), where it would intercept sunlight using a collection of individually pointed thin-film mirrors, convert that sunlight into a coherent microwave beam and transmit the power to markets on Earth or in space.

And in 1995–1997, NASA conducted its Fresh Look study, a preliminary reexamination of the technologies, systems concepts and terrestrial markets that might be involved in future SSP systems.

A three-year, ten-nation study of space solar power in 2009–2011 by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), co-chaired by Mankins, found that SSP appears to be “technically feasible within 10–20 years using technologies existing now in the laboratory, and economically viable in the next 1–3 decades under several different scenarios for future energy markets, including potential government actions to mediate environment/climate change issues.”

Paths to Space Settlement

The latest paper in the NSS Journal of Space Settlement is “Paths to Space Settlement” by Al Globus.


A number of firms are developing commercial sub-orbital launch vehicles to carry tourists into space. Let’s assume they attract many customers and become profitable. The next, much more difficult, step is to develop orbital tourist vehicles and space hotels to go with them. These hotels will require maids, cooks, waiters, concierges and so forth, some of whom may decide to stay, becoming the first permanent residents in space. A luxury hotel plus good medical facilities could provide low-g living for wealthy disabled individuals where wheelchairs and walkers are unnecessary.

In the meantime, humanity could choose to solve, once and for all, our energy and global warming problems by developing space solar power. To supply a substantial fraction of civilization’s 15 TW energy consumption would require an extremely large number of launches, the ability to build extremely large structures in orbit, and eventually tapping the Moon and Near Earth Objects (NEOs) for materials to avoid the environmental cost of mining, manufacturing, and launch from Earth.

The first step towards NEO mining is to locate them. As a large fraction, roughly 30%, of these will eventually impact Earth, locating and characterizing the NEO population is essential for planetary defense. Furthermore, it would be prudent to deflect a representative set of non-dangerous NEOs to insure that we know how to do it should a NEO on an imminent collision course with Earth be found. A representative set would include at least one of each major type of NEO since these have different physical properties and thus may require different deflection techniques. This would give orbital space settlement designers a known source of materials and the means to move them if necessary.

If these paths are taken, each step of which is justified in its own right, humanity will have excellent launch, small orbital living facilities, the ability to build large objects in orbit, and access to extra-terrestrial materials — most of what is needed to realize Gerard O’Neill’s orbital space settlement vision. At that point, some extremely wealthy individuals may build themselves a small orbital habitat so they live only with like-minded individuals. The first, and most difficult, orbital space settlement will be built.

These are paths to space settlement.

Full paper.

University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Predicts Bright Future for Space Solar Power

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.

See 2 short BBC News videos on this story.

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.”