Are you thinking that this post is a reality check on the viability of the space based power system? Nope. It’s a reality check of the stories in the press about what is in the report so you and I can learn something worthwhile.
The report is titled “Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security” a commissioned report to the Director, National Security Space Office by the SBSP Study Group lead by Col. Coyote Smith (really).
There are two views coming into the study. The Department of Defense view is as a resource for military activities in the first instance and secondly as a strategic means to reduce tensions over energy supplies that put the US and its allies at risk. The other view is the public and private part of the investments and benefits from continuing to a likely construction of a facility. As the technologies change the report serves the most useful function to compare the probabilities now to the idea’s potential in the technology at the idea’s inception and then look down the road to see what technologies will need more research and development to establish a facility in the future. Things are very different now in the various technology fields to put a facility in orbit and get the power on line.
With that in mind rather than the press stories, the report does offer anyone with a good high school reading level and an interest in plentiful energy supplies one of the best outlooks into a technology we’ve seen all year. Running some 75 pages with the opening bits and acknowledgments at the end its still a well-written article that deserves a close look. See:
The high points:
1. Current technology puts the feasibility within a decade rather than say 50 years out.
2. Its clean. Completely inexhaustible. And huge.
3. Likely the only way, other than fusion to meet worldwide energy demand.
4. The power can be utilized planet wide.
5. The business case isn’t closed and the report offers that the DOD or other government entity should proceed through proof of concept to ready commercialization.
6. The facility would kick the next stage of the space age, which has been mired since the conclusion of the Apollo Program (man landing on the moon).
7. A facility in stationary orbit offers energy worldwide, as the power would be continuous as the planet revolves below.
8. Its not being seen as a military project, rather the military can be counted on as an early adopter.
9. The report specifically does not recommend that the Department of Defense take the control or lead for further development, rather suggests that government lead by retiring risks, being an early customer and proving the economics.
10. A facility would put America in the lead for power (displacing unreliable oil producing countries) with a reduction in petroleum importing and a new export product.
There are about 35 pages of text net of the executive summary, study objective and the appendixes. The appendixes are worth a close look as they give many details that the report cites.
Most interesting and makes part of the case most adroitly is found on page 24 where a graph compares six technology issues as of 1977 and 2007. A lot has changed and changed quite a lot.
With the news stories now out with the glaring headlines about the military and a space station sending electricity to the surface behind us a careful review by interested citizens is in order. I admit I read every word and was quite interested to read how the study came to be and the people involved and the reasons they have for helping. The conclusions and recommendations based on the report and its appendixes are compelling and deserve support. Furthermore we have a space station in orbit now and the early demonstration work can take place quickly.
Overlooked in this is the inevitable technological seeding out into the economy at large. Although attention is judiciously accorded to a business perspective this is overlooked. More over the prospect that the US would become a net exporter again is a strong incentive to most Americans who wish to “buy back” their country.
You haven’t seen this word from me – endorsed – but here it is used with enthusiasm. Extraplanatory solar collection and fusion are the only true long-term solutions in our current catalog of alternatives.