1st Space Solar Power International Student and Young Professional Design Competition

The Space Generation Advisory Council is announcing a partnership with the International Astronautical Federation’s Space Power Committee (SPC) to organise and run the 1st Space Solar Power International Student and Young Professional Design Competition.

The competition aims to challenge entrants to submit a technical paper for a new and innovative technical concept for Space Solar Power (SSP).

SSP, in its typical implementation and for the purposes of this competition, is the idea of transmitting power harvested from the sun in space down to Earth.

The winning entrant will be given up to $2000 USD to cover travel costs to to Naples, Italy to present their paper at the 2012 Space Generation Congress (SGC) and to present a poster at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC).

The competition aims to challenge entrants, in this case individuals and small teams (1-3 people) between the ages of 18-35, to submit a technical paper for a new and innovative technical concept for Space Solar Power (SSP). SSP, in its typical implementation and for the purposes of this competition, is the idea of transmitting power harvested from the sun in space down to Earth.

The entrant shall describe in technical detail their idea on a new SSP technical concept taking into consideration the use of current or realistic near-future technologies in a single technical paper (maximum length of 10 pages).

The competition is intentionally broad. Contestants should attempt to understand the scientific, engineering, economic and social challenges involved.

The submitted papers will be judged based on, but not only, aspects such as originality, feasibility, economic viability or novelty with previously proposed concepts.

After the competition’s results announcement, the winning entry will be requested to prepare a 3 to 5 min long executive summary video as well as both IAC and SGC presentations.

Submission Deadline: 1st July 2012 (23:59 UTC)

Winners Announced: 17th August 2012

For more information please read the SSP Competition Rules.

Mirrors in Space for Low-Cost Terrestrial Solar Electric Power at Night

The latest addition to the NSS Space Solar Power Library is a paper by Lewis M. Fraas of JX Crystals Inc, Issaquah, WA, on “Mirrors in Space for Low-Cost Terrestrial Solar Electric Power at Night.” An abstract is below; the link goes to a PDF of the full paper.

Abstract: A constellation of 18 mirror satellites is proposed in a polar sun synchronous dawn to dusk orbit at an altitude of approximately 1000 km above the earth. Each mirror satellite contains a multitude of 2 axis tracking mirror segments that collectively direct a sun beam down at a target solar electric field site delivering a solar intensity to that terrestrial site equivalent to the normal daylight sun intensity extending the sunlight hours at that site at dawn and at dusk each day. Each mirror satellite in the constellation has a diameter of approximately 10 km and each terrestrial solar electric field site has a similar diameter and can produce approximately 5 GW per terrestrial site. Assuming that in 10 years, there will be approximately 40 terrestrial solar electric field sites evenly distributed in sunny locations near cities around the world, this system can produce more affordable solar electric power during the day and further into the morning and evening hours. The typical operating hours or power plant capacity factor for a terrestrial solar electric power site can thus be extended by about 30%. Assuming a launch cost of $400/kg as was assumed in a recent NASA Space Power Satellite study for future launch costs, the mirror constellation pay back time will be less than 1 year.

International SunSat Design Competition

The SunSat Design Competition is an international contest intended to accelerate the design, manufacture, launch and operation of the next-generation satellites that will collect energy in space and deliver it to earth as electricity.

Registration:  May 2012 – January 6, 2013

Design Submission Deadline:  March 30, 2013

Registration will begin at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference in Washington DC in May 2012. Winners will be announced and their “Creative Visualizations” will be shown at ISDC-2013.

The purpose of this Design Project is to more closely link digital media labs around the world to the satellite and space community as a way to accelerate the way forward in development and implementation of universal access to space-based solar power.

Winning designs will be high-impact digital art, supported by credible science, engineering and business plans, that best promote media understanding and public acceptance of a path forward in using space satellites to deliver energy on-demand to any and all places on Earth.

The SunSat Competition is an initiative of the Online Journal of Space Communication in partnership with the Society of Satellite Professionals International, the National Space Society, and Ohio University Game Research and Immersive Design Laboratory (GRID Lab).

For more information and online registration, go to sunsat.gridlab.ohio.edu. Winning entries from the 2013 competition will be published in the Online Journal of Space Communication. To view sample designs prepared by the Ohio University GRID Lab see Issue No.17 of the Space Journal. A second contest will be held 2013-2014.

Moon Mines: Visionary or Senseless?

Editorial by Al Globus, December 2011

Do lunar mines make sense? The answer depends on what you want to do in space. If what you want is something close to what we have now: a booming commercial communication satellite business and government programs for science and exploration, then no. Lunar mines built entirely with tax dollars are expensive and unnecessary. On the other hand, if you see further than a few years ahead, if you see civilization, humanity, and Life itself expanding into space, if you see large scale industrialization, commercialization and settlement of space, then lunar mines are of enormous importance. The interesting thing is, the second vision will probably cost the taxpayer a lot less and deliver much greater value to the people of Earth.

First, let us consider what lunar mines can supply a growing civilization in space:

1) Shielding mass. Our atmosphere protects us from the intense radiation in space. For those who seek to spend long periods in space, particularly beyond Earth’s protective magnetic field, radiation shielding is a must. To mimic the atmosphere, roughly 10 tons/square-meter is necessary. The Moon is ideally situated to supply these bulk materials.

2) Rocket propellant. Today’s rockets are propelled by chemical reactions. The highest performance propellant is hydrogen and oxygen, which combine to produce water and the energy and thrust necessary to travel in space. Most of the weight, roughly 90%, of this propellant is oxygen. The Moon has very large quantities of oxygen tied up in surface materials.

3) Water. A great deal of money is spent today bringing water to the International Space Station (ISS). The same oxygen that supplies most of the mass for rocket propellant can be used to make water. There are also large quantities of water in the craters at the lunar poles where the Sun never shines.

4) Metals. Lunar materials returned by the Apollo astronauts contain large quantities of titanium, aluminum, iron and other metals. These metals can supply materials for large space structures, including habitats.

5) Silicon. Silicon and metals from the Moon could be used to build the space segment of Space Solar Power (SSP) systems. These satellites would gather energy in space and transmit it wirelessly to the ground. If successfully developed, SSP could supply massive quantities of clean energy to Earth for literally billions of years. A recent paper published in the NSS Space Settlement Journal [A Contemporary Analysis of the O’Neill – Glaser Model for Space-based Solar Power and Habitat Construction. Peter A. Curreri and Michael K. Detweiler. December 2011.] suggests that using lunar materials for the SSP satellites requires more up-front capital than ground launch but begins generating profits much sooner.

6) He-3. Over billions of years the solar wind has implanted He-3, an isotope that is particularly well suited to fusion power, into lunar surface materials. This could be mined, brought to Earth, and used in future fusion power plants.

Thus, a vigorous lunar mining system could be part of a system to deliver energy to Earth, build large structures in space, and even provide radiation protection, water and oxygen to those who want to spend significant time in orbit. Developing lunar mines will be an enormous effort and would cost huge amounts of taxpayer money if it were done the same way Apollo, the Space Shuttle, and the ISS were developed. Fortunately, there is another way.

In the 1960s the U.S. government provided modest subsidies to start up the communication satellite business. Today, communication satellites are a $250 billion/year global business producing yearly tax revenue far greater than the subsidies.

The U.S. government is currently providing subsidies to help develop private, commercial launch vehicles. The cargo versions are almost complete. Two launchers, one of which has flown, were developed at a small fraction of the usual cost for government launcher programs. The human launch versions are being developed by the commercial crew program, which was budgeted for $6 billion and scheduled to develop two or three vehicles that could deliver astronauts to the ISS by 2015. [The budget for the first year was cut from $850 million to $406 million. This is expected to delay the first flight by a year or two.] By contrast, the all-government Space Launch System (SLS) is not scheduled to fly astronauts until 2021 and is estimated cost $40 billion to develop. Although the SLS is much larger, variants of the commercial vehicles may approach or even exceed SLS performance sooner and at much less cost. [The first SLS version is expected to place up to 70 tons into Low Earth Orbit (LEO); a later version may lift up to 130 tons. The Falcon Heavy, due to launch in late 2012, is expected to place up to 50 tons in LEO. SpaceX has also proposed a larger version of the Falcon that could lift 150 tons to LEO; it is projected to take five years to develop at a total cost of $2.5 billion.]

Thus, the evidence suggests that reorienting our space program to support commercialization and industrialization of space, as opposed to 100% government missions, may produce far greater results at much less cost. Lunar mining could be a major component of such space industrialization. There is already at least one commercial company that intends to mine the Moon. Perhaps we should support it.

NSS Space Settlement Journal

The NSS Space Settlement Journal has commenced publication this month, beginning with two new papers:

A Contemporary Analysis of the O’Neill – Glaser Model for Space-based Solar Power and Habitat Construction by Peter A. Curreri, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, and Michael K. Detweiler, Amadeus Consulting

Abstract: Solar Power Satellites, SPS, is a technology that promises unlimited energy free from chemical pollution and green house gas emissions. First expounded by Peter Glaser in 1969, the economic viability was in doubt primarily due to Earth launch costs. Concurrently Gerard O’Neill demonstrated that using 1970’s technologies, SPS could be economically viable if space based materials and labor were utilized, but only after large investments in in-space infrastructure. More recently the O’Neill – Glaser model was reevaluated finding that optimization of space worker habitat size results in substantially improved economics. This paper compares the optimized O’Neill – Glaser economic model with that of Earth launched SPS for the classical electrical power scenario and for the more ambitious scenario to arrest global climate change. The conclusion is that for the energy levels necessary to mitigate global increases in CO2, Earth launched SPS are not economically viable (even with more advanced technologies and more optimistic decreases in launch costs), however with this increase in energy demand the space derived SPS become even more economically compelling and in addition enhance human survival probabilities by enabling a substantial human population to live in space.

The Space Grid: Sun-synchronous orbiting SBSP Satellites with Equatorial orbiting Reflector Satellites for Earth and Space Energy by Royce Jones

Abstract: The development of an economically viable space-based solar power (SBSP) system is critical to the Earth’s future and for future space development. PowerSat technology is also critical to supporting sustainable private and government space ventures, including space lift, space exploration and space infrastructure development. Such a system would greatly expand the need for space lift capability from small reusable launch vehicles for SBSP satellite maintenance to large expendable launch vehicles for deploying GW class SBSP satellites into orbit. The technology needed for SBSP is also needed for in-space solar electric transportation systems needed for space colonization as the technology is the same. The hope has been that gradual improvement in photovoltaic or other technologies such as thermal systems would solve the mass to orbit problem for SBSP systems. However, this in itself does not appear sufficient to make SBSP economically viable. This paper presents a new architectural option for SBSP using a Sun -synchronous orbit (SS-O), wireless power transmission (WPT) and a space power relay (SPR). This new concept is called The Space Grid. The Space Grid relies on the use of two separate satellite constellations. The power satellite (PowerSat) constellation is placed in SS-O dusk to dawn orbit at 800km and has access to constant sunlight and is used to produce the power. The Equatorial reflector satellite (ReflectorSat) constellation is in a 4,000km equatorial orbit and is used to distribute the power to the rectenna on the Earth’s surface. The power is produced by the PowerSats in SS-O and beamed to the ReflectorSats in equatorial orbit and then bounced to the rectenna on the ground. This combination allows for the production and distribution of power to the Earth’s surface without the problems normally associated with non-Geostationary (GEO) PowerSat concepts and without having to place the PowerSats in GEO. The Space Grid reduces the mass of a PowerSat transmitter by approximately 67% by moving it closer then past GEO concepts and allows for higher power levels and therefore much smaller (60%) and less costly rectenna on the ground and reduces the minimum size from 5GW to only 2GW allowing quicker deployment of space energy to solve the Earth’s energy problems. WPT transmission could be microwave or laser but for this paper microwave will be used for easier comparison with past concepts.

The NSS Space Settlement Journal is an online, high-quality, peer-reviewed journal. NASA Liaison for the Journal is Simon “Pete” Worden, NASA Ames Research Center. Editors of the Journal are:

Al Globus, San Jose State University, Editor in Chief
Fred Becker, National Space Society
Anita Gale, International Space Settlement Design Competition
Peter Garretson, National Space Society
Mark Hopkins, National Space Society
John Lewis, University of Arizona
Scott Pace, George Washington University
Joseph Palaia, 4Frontiers Corporation

See Call for Papers if you are interested in contributing to the Journal.

National Space Society Hails Space Solar Power Study Findings

The National Space Society (NSS) and SPACE Canada held a press conference on November 14, 2011 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C to announce the findings of a ground-breaking space solar power study conducted by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) under the leadership of John Mankins, a 25-year NASA veteran and expert on space solar power.

See video of the press conference on the NSS website.

The IAA’s three-year, ten-nation study, “Space Solar Power — The First International Assessment of Space Solar Power: Opportunities, Issues and Potential Pathways Forward,” confirms the possible readiness of using space solar power technology within the decade.

The full report is included in the NSS Space Solar Power Library.

Comments from environmentalists, scientists, aerospace engineers, and advocates in the space and clean energy movements are also available on the NSS website here.

Gary Barnhard, the Executive Director of NSS stated “The IAA report lays out the case quite clearly. Space Solar Power is one of the potential key elements in meeting the growing and evolving electrical energy demand of the United States and the world. Space Solar Power is not a panacea, nor is it engineering fantasy. Space Solar Power is a complex systems engineering and economics problem that entails learning how to build the most valuable system(s) and when to do so in order to best meet electrical energy needs. Space Solar Power is an option we can make real and in doing so help provide for a positive future for humanity.”

“With space solar power technology, energy can be collected from space and transmitted wirelessly anywhere in the world,” explained Mark Hopkins, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Space Society. “This technology could be the answer to our energy crisis. We look forward to sharing the results of the IAA’s study, and exploring the potential that space solar power has for creating thousands of green energy jobs,” he said.

Collecting solar energy to convert to electricity is not a new concept. However, there are significant advantages to space solar power compared to ground solar power. Solar energy in space is seven times greater per unit area than on the ground. The collection of solar space energy is not disrupted by nightfall and inclement weather, thus avoiding the need for expensive energy storage.

Mr. Hopkins added, “Our dependence on crude oil is simply unsustainable, and other energy sources can be costly and harmful to the environment. As a continuous source of energy, space solar power is a potential cost-effective and environmentally superior energy alternative.”

NATIONAL SPACE SOCIETY TO ANNOUNCE GROUND-BREAKING GREEN ENERGY SOLUTION

Study Finds Space Solar Power is a Viable, Low Cost Energy Source

Washington, D.C.­ The National Space Society (NSS) will hold a press conference on November 14, 2011, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to announce the findings of a ground-breaking space solar power study conducted by the prestigious International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).

“With space solar power technology, energy can be collected from space and transmitted wirelessly anywhere in the world,” explained Mark Hopkins, the lead Executive Officer of the National Space Society. “This technology could be the answer to our energy crisis. We look forward to sharing the results of the IAA’s study, and exploring the potential that space solar power has for creating thousands of green energy jobs,” he said.

Collecting solar energy to convert to electricity is not a new concept. However, there are significant advantages to space solar power compared to ground solar power. Solar energy in space is seven times greater per unit area than on the ground. The collection of solar space energy is not disrupted by nightfall and inclement weather, thus avoiding the need for expensive energy storage.

The IAA’s three-year, ten-nation study, Space Solar Power — The First International Assessment of Space Solar Power: Opportunities, Issues and Potential Pathways Forward, confirms the possible readiness of using space solar power technology within the decade. John Mankins, a 25-year NASA veteran and expert on space solar power, led the study. Mr. Hopkins added, “Our dependence on crude oil is simply unsustainable, and other energy sources can be costly and harmful to the environment. As a continuous source of energy, space solar power is a potential cost-effective and environmentally superior energy alternative.”

This event is free and open to the public. Members of the press are encouraged to attend.

A Space Solar Power Industry for $2 Billion or Your Money Back

The latest addition to the NSS Space Solar Power Library is a paper by Al Globus, a member of the National Space Society Board of Directors, proposing a system of prizes to kick-start a vigorous space solar power industry. In recent years prizes such as the Ansari X Prize, the DARPA Grand Challenge, and the Google Lunar X Prize have all been successfully used to develop important technologies and even entire industries.

ABSTRACT: A system of prizes to develop space solar power (SSP) is proposed. If successful, a one or two billion dollar investment could kick-start a vigorous SSP industry, which in turn could provide humanity with essentially unlimited quantities of clean electrical energy. If unsuccessful, the money is returned to its source. The prize is structured to subsidize the construction of nine SSP satellites by at least three different entrants using different designs. The prize is aimed at developing small SSP systems delivering a few tens of megawatts to utilities on the ground. Under some reasonable assumptions, the prize money is sufficient to make one or perhaps two of the satellites profitable and provide a significant subsidy to the other seven. Once small SSP systems have been successfully developed, producing large systems that can make a real difference to global energy production will be much easier. While $2 billion is a great deal of money, should this effort be successful, it is reasonable to hope that Earth’s energy and greenhouse gas problems could be solved.

Read full paper.

SPS-ALPHA: The First Practical Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program has issued a grant to John Mankins of Artemis Innovation Management Solutions for a study of space solar power. SPS-ALPHA (Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large Phased Array) is a novel, bio-mimetic approach to the challenge of space solar power. If successful, this project will make possible the construction of huge platforms from tens of thousands of small elements that can deliver remotely and affordably 10s to 1000s of megawatts using wireless power transmission to markets on Earth and missions in space. The selected NIAC project will enlist the support of a world-class international team to determine the conceptual feasiblity of the SPS-ALPHA by means of integrated systems analyses, supported by selected “proof-of-concept” technology experiments.