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Thread: Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS)

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    Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS)

    There has been lots of talk on how SSPS will be the future for green energy here on earth. If we have that technology, it can also be used for the moon, Mars etc. One major hurdle has been, moving the energy from up there to down here on earth. We have just taken a small step in that direction.

    http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/03/...st/#more-54871

    Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) has conducted ground demonstration testing of “wireless power transmission,” a new technology presently under development to serve as the core technology of the space solar power systems (SSPS) that are expected to be the power generation systems of the future. With successful completion of the test at the company’s Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works, MHI has now verified the viability of long-distance wireless power transmission.

    In the ground demonstration test, 10 kilowatts (kW) of power was sent from a transmitting unit by microwave. The reception of power was confirmed at a receiver unit located at a distance of 500 meters (m) away by the illumination of LED lights, using part of power transmitted. The transmission distance and power load mark new milestones in Japan with respect to length and volume of wireless power transmission. The testing also confirmed the performance of the advanced control system technology used to regulate the direction of the microwave beam so that it does not veer from the targeted receiver unit.

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    Almost the same news as above but instead of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. doing it, it is scientists working for JAXA, Japan's space administration. The news is with a space slant which I tried to give it in the above article

    http://www.sciencetimes.com/articles...ower-space.htm

    Researchers in Japan have been working on this technology for years as part of JAXA's Space Solar Power Systems effort. The program's goal is to harness a constant supply of solar energy directly from space using orbital solar farms and then beam that energy for use here on Earth.

    Solar power generation in space has many advantages over solar power here on the ground with the constant availability of energy regardless of the weather or time of day being the most notable.

    The idea, said the JAXA spokesman, would be for microwave-transmitting solar satellites - which would have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae - to be set up about 22,300 miles (36,000km) from the Earth.

    "But it could take decades before we see practical application of the technology - maybe in the 2040s or later," he said. "There are a number of challenges to overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them and how to maintain them."

    While this project from JAXA is still closer to science fiction rather than science fact, the lure of an almost limitless supply of energy is too much to ignore and now that researchers have overcome the first hurdle of actually beaming the energy to another location, we could be looking at the future of power generation here on Earth today.

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    In the second article, I think this sentence is pretty key:
    "But it could take decades before we see practical application of the technology - maybe in the 2040s or later," he said. "There are a number of challenges to overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them and how to maintain them."
    And I would add, "and how to fund them."...
    As above, so below

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    It will be necessary to get launch costs way way way way down for orbiting solar panels to be feasible.

    Consider the numbers of a well-known rocket company that brags about its prices: Capabilities & Services | SpaceX
    $61.2 million to send 13150 kg into low earth orbit (LEO) or 4850 kg into geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This turns out to be
    • LEO: $4650/kg
    • GTO: $12600/kg

    To get an idea of the state of the art, I looked at the first solar panel that shopping.google.com returned: 300W Polycrystalline | Renogy Store

    Output: 300 watts
    Price: $275.99
    Weight: 23 kg
    Dimensions: 2 m * 1 m * 5 cm

    So getting it up into outer space would cost $110 thousand. However, a single Falcon 9 launch could get 570 of these panels into LEO, and they would produce 170 kilowatts of electricity.

    Launch Costs - United Launch Alliance is a bit diffident, with what looks like FUD against SpaceX: "It would be risky to bet on a potential new entrant who is not yet certified, has a history of launch delays, and an overcommitted manifest that they may not be able to deliver on."

    But back to our main business. "The full price for a lower-end mission utilizing the Atlas V is $164 million." That rocket can get 9,800–18,810 kg into LEO, about $8,800 - $16,700 / kg.

    However, the ULA offers bulk discounts: "The incremental price of a lower-end mission, that is, the cost to the U.S. government to increase the block buy one addition mission, is less than $100 million." That is, $5,300 to $10,200 / kg.

    Ariane 5 ECA - Spaceflight101 has $200 million for 21,000 kg to LEO, about $9,500 / kg.

    I couldn't find any numbers for the Russian Soyuz rocket, or for Chinese or Indian rockets.

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    The raw materials for solar panels exist in abundance outside of earth's gravity well. Such a system economically viable in the future could result from a mix of increasing energy prices, decreased launched prices, and development in remote manufacturing technology to allow large solar arrays to be built from in situ resources.

    Large transmission and receiving arrays are needed for orbital transmission distances of microwaves because of the theoretical minimum amount of scattering at long wavelengths.

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    If you are supplying Earth, the reason to put the solar panels into orbit is to achieve an efficiency gain over having them on the ground, and for it to be worth doing you need it to cost less than building a few times as many solar farms. If you're already mass producing solar panels in orbit, this may well be the case. If you have to ship them up from Earth, it seems far less worth doing.

    However, a major potential use for this technology is to supply power to spacecraft such as orbital tugs running on VASIMR or high power ion drives, where there is the much more significant benefit of reducing power system mass. Being able to reduce the amount of mass you have to apply delta-v to during normal operation is worth quite a bit. There is also the potential for supplying power to operations on the moon or asteroids. You don't have to compete with Earth-bound power production in these cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VQkr View Post
    The raw materials for solar panels exist in abundance outside of earth's gravity well. Such a system economically viable in the future could result from a mix of increasing energy prices, decreased launched prices, and development in remote manufacturing technology to allow large solar arrays to be built from in situ resources.
    Yes indeed, but you'll need to get initial extraction, refining, and fabrication facilities into place. One will have to land them on the Moon or else get them to some asteroid.

    Now see if you can find a process for refining metal silicates to extract their metals and their silicon. I ask that because most of the Solar System's rocky material is various metal silicates, and also because I haven't been able to find any process for doing so myself.

    Obtaining metal oxides or other such compounds will be OK, especially for the more reactive metals. It's relatively easy to proceed from there, and some processes for doing so have been in commercial service for a long time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    However, a major potential use for this technology is to supply power to spacecraft such as orbital tugs running on VASIMR or high power ion drives, where there is the much more significant benefit of reducing power system mass. Being able to reduce the amount of mass you have to apply delta-v to during normal operation is worth quite a bit. There is also the potential for supplying power to operations on the moon or asteroids. You don't have to compete with Earth-bound power production in these cases.
    In such cases, it would be *much* easier to set up the solar panels on the spot rather than have them orbit several hundred km away. One won't need to aim a beam at a receiver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
    In such cases, it would be *much* easier to set up the solar panels on the spot rather than have them orbit several hundred km away. One won't need to aim a beam at a receiver.
    It's not easier. Solar panels need to be in the sun to work. You can limit yourself to equatorial areas and import huge battery banks to cover the shaded periods, or to a small region around the poles where you can reach constant sunlight, or you can use a rectenna array that is no harder to set up than a solar collector array (and likely less sensitive to dust or other surface contamination), collecting beamed power from a satellite that's always (or nearly always) in full sun. Additionally, a solar power satellite could switch its delivered power to various locations as needed. Using beamed power could considerably simplify the logistics and improve operational flexibility compared to ground based solar power.

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    Space solar power is attractive in theory but I can see several problems when doing a detailed examination.
    First the losses and the cost of transmission : Yes your satellite is always in full sun but You have to transform your electric power into radio waves (losses and cost) ,beam them to the ground (losses and cost) and receive them and transform them back into electrical power (losses and cost).
    Two , what do you do with an old space solar facility ? there is already a problem of space debris ,it could get much worse with old decaying SSPSs. Conclusion : you have to budget the demolition and or recycling from the beginning .This cost is huge.
    And if a SSPS is struck by a meteor how do you prevent the full Kessler syndrome ?
    And finally , there is the problem of dependency : Countries will not be willing to depend on an infrastructure upon which they will have no control on it and so fragile.
    Think solar event , economic pressure or sanctions and alas war.
    Last edited by galacsi; 2015-Mar-20 at 08:00 PM.

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    The best part is it is easy to convert to a death ray.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Glom View Post
    The best part is it is easy to convert to a death ray.
    Typical designs use a phased array transmitter with the elements synchronized to a reference beam transmitted from the target location. No reference beam means no phased array, and no power beam. Additionally, there are physical limitations on how small a spot a transmitting array of a particular size can focus down to, and typical designs use power levels that are similar to those of sunlight. So converting into a "death ray" would require building a new transmitting array of several times the size, with an on-board phase reference to allow formation of a beam focused on uncooperative targets.

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    Some SPSS demonstrators would be nice in the meantime.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    Some SPSS demonstrators would be nice in the meantime.
    You might get that sooner then you expected

    China is now showing interest in that technology.

    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/20..._134109115.htm

    Li Ming, vice president of the China Academy of Space Technology, says, "China will build a space station in around 2020, which will open an opportunity to develop space solar power technology."

    The space station could surport experiments on the key technologies of constructing space solar power station, Li says.
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    We'd really have to bring down launch costs for this to be viable, not least because they'd have to be constantly replaced as photovoltaic solar panels lose efficiency over time. Still, it would be a great market for the 'big dumb booster' type rocket.

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    A US commercial company is sponsoring research with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI).

    With all these initiatives going on, perhaps we might have to wait decades before we see practical application of the technology

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/pr...4,5,6,15,17,34

    Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) has signed a sponsored research agreement with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). Under the terms of the agreement, Northrop Grumman will provide up to $17.5 million to the initiative over three years.

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    I would love to see SLS launch a demonstrator. If ISS is abandoned--the Truss at least needs to become a SPSS spine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    I would love to see SLS launch a demonstrator. If ISS is abandoned--the Truss at least needs to become a SPSS spine.
    It's heavier than it needs to be, shorter than it could be, it's not equipped with the wiring and connectors needed, it places constraints on their design and expansion, brings in international legal and political complications, and it's in an inconvenient orbit. They would be better off with something new...maybe incorporating something like SpiderFab:
    https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/f..._SpiderFab.pdf

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    Re.: Spiderfab. I read the pdf a while back. It all makes sense to me. I wonder if there has been any progress.

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    I can see space based solar power coming into exsistance as early as 2020. I was watching a programme on tv a few months ago about new clean green energies. I think it was caltech that said they were planning on doing this. The solar energy would be beemed down to earth via microwaves, it is supposed to be very safe.

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    NASA is now working to develop advanced structures for high power solar arrays that are stronger, lighter, and package more compactly for launch.

    http://www.parabolicarc.com/2016/06/...ay-technology/

    This technology investment furthers the agency’s deep space exploration goals and aids the commercial communications satellite industry, the provider of direct-to-home television, satellite radio, broadband internet and a multitude of other services.

    The Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) is one of the options eyed by NASA that could power an advanced solar electric propulsion spacecraft that makes possible such endeavors as the agency’s Asteroid Redirect Mission—plucking a multi-ton boulder from an asteroid’s surface, and then maneuvering that object into a stable orbit around the moon for human inspection and sampling.

    Tapping into ROSA technology allows the conversion of sunlight into electrical power that drives the ion thrusters of a solar electric propulsion spacecraft. ROSA is expected to enable a number of space initiatives and is a cost-saving plus to transport cargo over long distances beyond the Earth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    It's heavier than it needs to be, shorter than it could be, it's not equipped with the wiring and connectors needed, it places constraints on their design and expansion, brings in international legal and political complications, and it's in an inconvenient orbit. They would be better off with something new...maybe incorporating something like SpiderFab:
    https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/f..._SpiderFab.pdf
    Spiderfab looks like a very busy design. With ISS, the dog still wagged the tail. That large, masive shuttle orbiter gave you stability the tiny spiderfab bots just won't have.

    ROSA looks to be the way to go--as per the post above: http://www.nasa.gov/feature/roll-out...mercial-sector
    https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/in...?topic=40499.0

    Scale up for SLS and attach to either end of ISS truss segments. If nothing else, you can do higher power experiments.

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    The latest Space Review has an appeal to the American government to invest in SSPS but most of the examples given are military based. No mention in the article itself of what is happening else where. In the comments someone said what the Europeans did, but nothing of Japan of China.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3015/1

    The United States has demonstrated a history of innovation and leadership in aerospace development that began with the Wright Brothers and the establishment of the space program at NASA. As the world’s premier aerospace developer, the US is well positioned to lead the development of space-based solar power. Doing so could establish new industry for the US and decrease our military’s annual $20 billion energy bill.9

    The urgency of this matter should drive Congress to require the Air Force Space Command to develop both laser and microwave wireless point transfer (WPT) SBSP. Laser SBSP should be considered because of the immediate impact that it can bring to space-based assets and potential for terrestrial military operations. By demonstrating laser SBSP capabilities, the US will ignite the appetite for microwave SBSP systems capable of significantly more power distribution tailored for permanent power grid infrastructure support. With current proposals provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), laser SBSP could be implemented in five years. It is imperative that the US develop and collaborate new policies, both domestically and internationally, that support the demonstration of WPT SBSP not with the aim of weaponizing space, but to build a more prosperous world for future generations.

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    I just wish Dwayne Day would quit dumping on the concept.

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    NASA did some studies on it in the late seventies but dropped it in 1982.

    http://spaceflighthistory.blogspot.m...rtment-of.html

    The DOE/NASA SPS studies continued until after President Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981. The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) published a review of work performed since 1976 in August 1981. It was based in large part on three OTA-sponsored workshops: one on alternatives to the DOE/NASA SPS system design; another on public opinion of Solar Power Satellies; and the last on competing energy technologies, such as coal-fired power plants and nuclear fission reactors. Despite the OTA's generally favorable (though cautious) assessment of the viability of the SPS concept, the Reagan White House saw fit cease funding the DOE/NASA SPS studies in 1982.

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    China's desire for space based solar power is to meet their power requirements from non polluting sources. This article indicates that China has already invested over one billion US dollars on land based solar power and it meets less than 1% of their current requirements. The land area used for one solar farm is so huge that it can be seen from space.

    https://www.google.com/amp/www.unive...olar-farm/amp/

    "The solar farm with the current distinction of being the largest in the world — as of February 2017 – is the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China. These new images from NASA’s Landsat 8 satellite show the farm’s blue solar panels prominently standing out on the brown landscape of the western province of Qinghai, China. Reportedly, the solar farm covers 27 square kilometers (10.42 square miles), and consists of nearly 4 million solar panels.

    You can see in the image below from 2013 that the farm has been growing over the years. The project has cost the amount of 6 billion yuan ($889.5 million)."

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    I'm perplexed by the following paragraph, regarding the 1% figure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Universe Today
    China wants to shed its title of the biggest polluter in the world and is now investing in clean, renewable energy. It has a goal of producing 110 GW of solar power and 210 GW of wind power by the year 2020. That sounds like a lot, but in a country of 1.4 billion people that relies heavily on coal, it amounts to less than 1 percent of the country’s more than 1,500 gigawatts of total power generation capacity, says Inside Climate News.
    But 320 GW isn't 1% of 1,500 GW. It's 21%, a substantial fraction. Even just the 110 GW from solar would be over 7%. Going to the original article from Inside Climate News that they're citing for this figure, it looks like the 1% figure is coming from China's installed solar capacity as of the end of 2015, which was 43.2 GW. But that's still wrong, since 43.2 GW is almost 3% of 1500 GW.

    So it seems like the author is trying to make even this huge investment in solar energy seem trivial, when in fact it appears that China is making a significant reduction in their reliance on coal, and has a serious commitment to doing more in the near future.
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    A solar sunshade that is also part of SPSS allow cooling ad power generation--if large enough

    Mirror advance that can help
    https://www.extremetech.com/computin...perfect-mirror


    "These perfect mirrors could also lead to breakthroughs in solar power, lasers, fiber optic networks, or just about anything that involves the reflecting or capturing of light."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey View Post
    I'm perplexed by the following paragraph, regarding the 1% figure.

    But 320 GW isn't 1% of 1,500 GW. It's 21%, a substantial fraction. Even just the 110 GW from solar would be over 7%. Going to the original article from Inside Climate News that they're citing for this figure, it looks like the 1% figure is coming from China's installed solar capacity as of the end of 2015, which was 43.2 GW. But that's still wrong, since 43.2 GW is almost 3% of 1500 GW.

    So it seems like the author is trying to make even this huge investment in solar energy seem trivial, when in fact it appears that China is making a significant reduction in their reliance on coal, and has a serious commitment to doing more in the near future.
    It looks like the percentages used in the article are wrong. As you say they are much higher for renewable energy especially solar.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grey View Post
    I'm perplexed by the...1% figure....
    In 2016, China consumed 4.36 billion tons of coal equivalent primary energy, or 121 quadrillion BTU or 35,494 terawatt hours:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ch...-idUSKBN14G1V4
    Converter: http://extraconversion.com/energy

    In electrical consumption alone, China consumed 5,919 terawatt hours, which is 16.6% of their total primary energy consumption. But since final energy consumption is typically about 32% less than primary, a better comparison of China's electrical to final total energy consumption would be 5919/24136 terawatt hours or 24.5%: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption

    China's goal of producing "320 GW" of solar and wind power by 2020 is likely "nameplate capacity", or the momentary maximum generation capacity. The typical capacity factor for solar farms is about 29%, and wind farms 48%. The article said 110 GW solar which would equate to about 110*.29 = 31.9 GW, and 210 GW wind, which would equate to 210 * .48 = 100.8 GW, or a total of 31.9+100.8 = 132.7 GW actual generating capacity, which for one year would be 1162 terawatt hours -- IF that article was correct about the "320 GW" number, and IF China's solar/wind plants could achieve those capacity factors. IF all that was correct, 1162 terawatt hours would be 1162/5919 = 19.6% of China's annual electrical consumption and 1162/24136 = 4.8% of total energy consumption.

    However the article said 320 GW was merely "a goal". In 2016, China's total actual electrical generation from solar power was 66.2 terawatt hours, which is 66.2/5919 = 1.1% of their total electrical consumption.

    As of 2016 the nameplate capacity of China's wind turbines is 149 GW: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_China. In 2015 China actually generated about 186 terawatt hours of wind energy, or about 180/5919 terawatt hrs, or about 3.1% of their total electrical consumption: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/...ng-wind-energy, http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/201...lar-last-year/

    So in the 2015/2016 timeframe, China's combined solar + wind generation totaled about 66.2 + 186 = 252.2 terawatt hours, which is 252.2/5919 = 4.2% of total electrical consumption. Their combined solar+wind generation relative to total final energy consumption was roughly 252.2/24136 terawatt hrs = 1%.

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