Space Solar Power & the SPS-ALPHA Concept
Space Solar Power & the SPS-ALPHA Concept
How we may harvest sunlight in space and deliver vast amounts of global, sustainable and safe energy - abundantly and almost forever.
How we may harvest sunlight in space and deliver vast amounts of global, sustainable and safe energy - abundantly and almost forever. Read more
I propose to write and publish a high-quality nonfiction book on the topic of Space Solar Power -- harvesting solar energy in space and delivering it via wireless power transmission to Earth as clean, affordable and sustainable electricity. The book would be intended for general and expert audiences, and depending on the pledge amount would be provided along with various additional information and items, including one or more videos. It would comprise technical, historical and policy related details, and would summarize the latest news in this unique field, including a transformational new SPS advanced concept: "SPS-ALPHA". (At present, it is planned to be entitled "Space Solar Power & the SPS-ALPHA Concept," although this may change...)
A LITTLE BACKGROUND...
The vision of Space Solar Power (SSP) can be stated very simply: we should harvest solar energy in space -- where the sun shines almost continuously -- and then transmit that power to people here on Earth. The system that would achieve this vision is called a Solar Power Satellite, or "SPS".
An SPS would collect solar energy in space, convert that energy first into electricity and then use wireless power transmission to send the energy to a specific location on Earth. Once received, the transmitted solar energy would be re-converted into electricity and distributed for use. There are various positions in space where such a satellite (and it would be a large satellite...!) could be placed, but the most promising is a high Earth orbit -- such as geostationary Earth orbit -- where the sunlight could be received nearly constantly and a large portion of Earth below could be served.
The concept of the Solar Power Satellite was first conceived by Dr. Peter Glaser in the late 1960s. Of those who are aware of the concept of Space Solar Power, many are passionate advocates and some are equally vigorous opponents. However, too few people really know very much about it!
If Space Solar Power can be developed successfully, it has the potential to transform the global energy market by enabling the delivery of 100s of gigawatts of sustainable solar energy to almost all of Earth's population, anytime of day, any season of the year.
CURRENT STATUS & PUBLICATIONS
For the most part, the available publications concerning Space Solar Power are either quite old (e.g., from the 1970s studies) or are individual technical papers written for various conferences during the past 30-plus years.
I was reminded this morning (19 June 2012) that there was a good, popular book on SPS by G. Harry Stine ("Space Power"), published back in 1981. (Of course, should have mentioned it previously; I apologize for the oversight, and the one below...!) This book is not current, but appears to be available on-line (in limited numbers, and "well-loved" condition) for about $6.
One very significant book on the topic is the mid-1990s collection of technical papers, edited by Dr. Peter Glaser, et al. This book is a fine resource, but is out of print. (There was an earlier version that is less useful, and about 1/3rd the scale of the second version.) The second version of the book is listed on-line at approximately $220. And (as I was also reminded), there is another SPS book for popular audiences, "Sun Power," (1995) written by Ralph Nansen, who was the senior manager of Boeing's SPS studies in the 1970s. His book, which is more polemic in character than most writing on SSP, is available on-line in older printed copies at roughly $1 per copy; a more recent updated edition (c. 2009) is available on Kindle.
NASA restarted SSP R&D during 1995-2003, and programs at the US space Agency made some significant progress in selected technologies. A number of the technical reports (especially the "Fresh Look Study" report of 1997) were produced as a result. Also, there have been ongoing programs in the field of SSP in Japan and China, as well as interest in the topic in various countries. These national activities have been reported in a number of technical papers at conferences over the years, but never synthesized in book form.
In September 2011, the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) published the first international assessment of Space Solar Power, based on a three-year effort involving experts from 10 countries. This study examined at a high level three different SPS approaches, and included consideration of future market scenarios and assessments of the technologies involved. The final report of the IAA study provides a good high-level overview (at about 150 pages, plus appendices). The IAA is making the study report available to Academy members at about $100 per copy; unfortunately, it is not widely available.
Also during 2011, I proposed a transformational new approach to the Solar Power Satellite concept: "SPS-ALPHA" (Solar Power Satellite by means of Arbitrarily Large PHased Array). A preliminary study of this new concept is being completed for NASA during the Summer of 2012. Once it is delivered, a pdf copy of the final report will be made available on-line by NASA.
There are also several other reports and/or books on the topic of SSP, including at least two science fiction books in which Space Solar Power figures prominently. Finding them can be challenging...!
THE PURPOSE OF THIS PROJECT...
The purpose of this project is to present in a high-quality nonfiction book a comprehensive and detailed discussion of the concept of Space Solar Power (SSP) that is accessible to interested but non-expert readers. It will also present details of recent study results of interest to technical readers and experts in aerospace and SSP. The book will draw upon the latest results from international and government-sponsored studies, and will incorporate various high-quality graphics of the key concepts. In addition, this book will present the results of the shortly-to-be-completed SPS-ALPHA concept study (mentioned above), detailing for the first time this transformational new SPS systems approach.
The book will also summarize and evaluate the principal technical hurdles that SSP faces, and speak to the concerns of skeptics concerning Space Solar Power, including numerous informational graphics (charts, diagrams, tables, etc.). It will be more than 350 pages in length, and (I hope...!) the first book of its kind.
When people first learn about the concept of Space Solar Power, they often ask various questions such as...
- How would it work?
- How much would it cost?
- Would it be safe?
- Would it really be a "green" energy solution?
- Who is working on SSP, and what are they doing?
This book will address all of these questions, and more...!
The project will also create and disseminate for the first time "public awareness items" for Space Solar Power, including a new video, a set of five different SSP lapel pins, and several different solor SSP posters. These will enable supporters of the concept to express that support much more readily than has been true in the past.
Once the book is published and delivered to supporters who pledge to the project, it (along with the supporting materials described above) will be made available for sale online; with versions of the book in both the softbound version (@ $75) and hardbound version (@ $125) -- thus fulfilling the goal of promoting better understanding of the Space Solar Power option.
The idea of Space Solar Power has been around for more than 40 years, but very few people have ever heard of it outside of the occasional work of science fiction. If this project succeeds -- and it will only succeed with your support -- then public knowledge and understanding of the concept of Space Solar Power will be dramatically advanced.
Also, at present there is no general agreement among advocates about how to evaluate different SPS concepts , much less which SPS approach is most likely to succeed. Hopefully, this book will make progress by establishing a common framework for discussing SSP options, and alternative approaches to achieving the vision of a Solar Power Satellite.
I am certain that space solar power is technically feasible. I also believe -- but don't yet know for certain -- that space solar power can deliver power to Earth at prices that will prove to be commercially viable. At any event, abundant and affordable solar power that can be used in space would transform everything that humanity might achieve throughout the inner solar system, whether it be on the Moon, at the Mars system, or elsewhere. So, in my view, large-scale Space Solar Power is definitely doable, and would be tremendously valuable -- but without broader awareness and greater investment, it will never happen.
These are the reasons that I believe this project is important, and why I hope that you will choose to support it.
- (35 days)