Friday saw NASA’s former manager of Exploration Systems Research and Technology Program, John C. Mankin who is regarded as one of, or the foremost expert on space based solar power announce the results of demonstration of wireless power transmission.

Space-based solar power, in which large satellite solar panels collect plentiful solar energy in orbit and beam it safely down to Earth, offer a full displacement of the fossil fuel, nuclear and biological sources of energy. It is the only energy technology that is clean, renewable, constant and capable of providing power to virtually any location on Earth. The Earth receives only one part in 2.3 billion parts of the Sun’s output, space solar power is by far the largest potential energy source available, dwarfing all others combined.

We all understand that wiring from orbit to the surface is not likely to be ever a practical way to bring concentrated solar power down for use. But Mankins discussed the latest test of a transmission method. The project demonstrated wireless power transmission between two Hawaiian Islands 148 kilometers apart, more than the distance from the surface of Earth to the boundary of space.

This time the machinery is real. It’s the first time that field deployed solar receivers coupled to power transmission and receivers were built and tested. Importantly, the test also gives a sense of the actual cost involved with producing such equipment. That means there is real data to replace the decades of speculation. Under $1 million in four months from start to test completed. Astonishing.

A Discovery Channel program was built on the test and aired Friday and again this past Sunday. I missed it and likely you did too. But the press conference Mr. Mankin gave Friday is on Google video. It’s more complete, more scientific than entertaining and gives Mr. Mankin an opportunity to discuss the details that we can see in stop, rewind and review mode:

Video Timeline:

0:00 – 14:20: Introduction with Mark Hopkins, NSS Senior Operating Officer.
14:20 – 17:40: Excerpt from Discovery Channel program Project Earth: Orbital Power Station.
17:40 – 18:50: Mark Hopkins introduces John Mankins.
18:50 – 50:10: John Mankins.
50:10 – 1:06:15: Questions and Answers.
1:06:15 – 1:10:55: Paul Rancatore.

I would suggest looking at the video especially from 18:50 to 50:10 for Mr. Mankin’s comments.

This is the first meaningful test to date. While lots of ideas, beautiful artist’s renderings and hopeful sounding writing has come before it’s quite a moment in history to see that the power transmitters and receivers were built, tested and they work.

Much as Dr. Robert Bussard’s talk on Google video was an important point in history that everyone can share, over time the significance of the Mankin test is important too.


15 Comments so far

  1. A Reality Check Of Space Based Power on September 15, 2008 8:35 AM

    […] Go to the author’s original blog: A Reality Check Of Space Based Power […]

  2. Paul on January 5, 2009 11:17 PM

    In reality this test was a joke. They managed to ‘receive’ a fraction of a watt. It can legitimately be questioned if ANY power from the actual transmitter was received at all. As a “meaningful test” the result was so poor as to be a standing joke. All this typical Discovery docu-drama proved was that you can’t do cutting edge science on a friggin TV show. I have absolutely no doubt wireless power works but crack pots like these clowns give it a bad name.

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