July 9, 2009 | 1 Comment
Xenotech Research, headed by Sir Charles Shults III, has several projects under way. The most interesting is the move to New Mexico close to the Spaceport America site that broke ground for construction just a couple weeks back. Sir Charles has recently been negotiating with Gene Meyers and Terry Martin of Space Island Group about supplying some technologies for their orbital solar power project. They have received permission to orbit a solar power satellite demonstrator and will soon be building receiving stations on the ground for the proof of principle. Just how these three groups work out together is yet to be seen, now Sir Charles isn’t to be overlooked; the technology on offer might be what is needed by Space Island to get very real.
Space Island Group plans to design, build and operate commercial space transportation systems and destinations that are dedicated to commerce, research, space solar power, satellite repair, manufacturing and tourism. There project will incorporate technologies, vehicles and procedures developed by NASA and aerospace companies over the last 25 years to create a stand-alone, commercial space infrastructure supporting the broadest possible range of manned business activities in low earth orbit some 400 to 500 miles above Earth.
The idea is to provide services, training, ground and space operations, communications and launch facilities for commercial space traffic and space stations. These will be destinations where research and manufacturing facilities will coexist with plush resort hotels in orbit. They plan for the first proof of concept solar station to be deployed in a low earth orbit of 300 miles in October of 2010, generating around 12-13 kilowatts. The power will be transmitted via precisely tuned microwave frequencies, and will require “no fly zones” above the receiver area on earth. There doesn’t seem to be any way to confirm the no fly zones are authorized, yet.
By 2012, Space Island Group intends to deploy a 1-gigawatt geosynchronous space solar station up around 22,300 miles, which will be constantly available on earth except during lunar eclipses of the solar station. Sir Charles is considering new work being done by Mitsubishi in Japan for cell phone power, a wireless point-to-point energy transmission on earth that is said to be presently exceeding the efficiency of copper wire-based transmission. I’m just going to have to see that publicly tested before allowing much credence.
Space Island Group is counting on hundreds of manufacturing companies from dozens of industries that have flown experiments onboard NASA’s space shuttles. The experiments found that when common elements were melted, mixed and solidified in the absence of gravity they often found new combinations with absolutely unique properties. Bio-scientists in particular were startled by the impact space-grown cells and crystals could have on the diseases and afflictions of Earth. But these firms were frustrated by NASA’s complete lack of “customer service” and incredibly high costs.
Space Island Group’s main and first element in their long term plan is space solar power satellites that over the next two decades, are asserting to deliver trillions of kilowatt-hours of environmentally clean electric energy to virtually any location on Earth. The second is mass-produced, economical launch vehicles able to carry space solar power satellite components up to geosynchronous orbit.
All this depends on New Mexico getting its now ground broken Spaceport up and running so that launchers such as Virgin Galactic, Up Aerospace and Lockheed Martin can function. A quick look at the board of directors suggests that the local players and the New Mexico taxpayers may well get the spaceport up and running.
It all sounds rather dubious, but not so far fetched as the first impression might suggest. The New Mexico effort to build a spaceport is real enough, Sir Charles Shults is well known enough, and Space Island Group might well have the drive to get to geosynchronous orbit with enough technology to compete with the various nuclear power generation possibilities. That’s leaving alone the realty that should the spaceport get built, Virgin Galactic and others might well have the competitive power to bleed down NASA, the European Space Agency and the Russians as well. This isn’t including the other space based power contenders who will need lifting as well. The spaceport looks like a very good idea.
Where does that leave us? Encouraged for certain, dubious in practice, enthused in principle and concerned on cost. Its going to be very cheap to generate thorium fueled fission power, the three potential fusion teams will come in at a low cost, and frankly if the Feds get off their duffs and fix the Nuclear Regulatory Commission even uranium fission could get much cheaper. Orbital power is going to have to be very low cost.
Maybe there is some sense in cap and trade. The crush of its costs to consumers and the devastation to the economy might well trigger a response that leads to more power cheaper. Politicians are only so stupid and the press can’t stay so biased for Obama forever. The mistakes and spending will get to real time awareness eventually.
Meanwhile the series of players, from a state driven spaceport to launcher companies, to orbiting producers and power generators, plus even cruises, looks pretty good – if difficult to sort through. But over the coming months the various players will gain more notoriety and become more “singular” subjects. But for now they’re all tied together – and I wish ‘em well. That’s a lot of the infrastructure potential to launch things and poeple into orbit.