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Pentagon in orbital solar power plan for world peace

Military techno-hippies: make 'leccy not war, man

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It would appear that many of the usual suspects in the space-advocacy field may have got involved, as the report shows signs of involvement by Elon Musk and Robert Bigelow to name just two. It also has a strong sense about it of tail-wagging-dog; that SBSP is advocated more as a way of dragging humanity into space than really because it's the best possible means of generating electricity.

Nothing wrong with that, of course - we happen to be in favour of the human race expanding into space too. But it's probably important to be clear what you're doing and why.

Quite apart from the ultimate motives of those pushing SBSP, there are other criticisms. A microwave beam powerful enough to generate gigawatts on the ground has to have potential for accidents at the very least - if not for use as a weapon.

The Pentagon lads pooh-pooh such pooh-poohs, however.

"The likelihood of the beam wandering over a city is extremely low, and even if occurring would be extremely anti-climactic," they write. And:

"The distance from the geostationary belt is so vast that beams diverge beyond the coherence and power concentration useful for a weapon."

So there.

Whatever one thinks of SBSP, it's nice to see that some people in the Pentagon recognise that their job isn't to take oil away from people by force; it's to make sure that Americans - and even, perhaps, the rest of us on occasion - have what they/we need.

"Perhaps the greatest military benefit of SBSP," they write, "is to lessen the chances of conflict due to energy scarcity by providing access to a strategically secure energy supply."

Of course, you could do that perhaps with other things such as nuclear fusion. But it's nice to see this general sort of thinking all the same.

On a more pessimistic note, one might suggest that even if the SBSP orbital industry can be built and made to work, that doesn't mean it will be secure. China can already shoot down satellites in low orbit, and it seems unlikely that they would sit still while the USA effectively colonised - if not militarised - the space above their heads.

The report's authors ackowledge such concerns. One would expect bold talk of space fortresses, warships, weaponry and the like. In fact, however, once again the Pentagon seems happy to drown any opposition in baby milk - as it were.

"The best routes to security are a diversity and redundancy of clean energy sources," they say, "and a cooperative international regime where those who are capable of damaging a SBSP system also have an interest in preserving the new infrastructure for their own benefit."

So, we'll let the French, Russians, Chinese et al have cheap space power too and they'll leave us alone. Clever stuff.

That would seem to leave just the aliens to worry about...®

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