Feeds

Enormous orbiting solar raygun power plants touted

Trusty scientifiction staple gets another outing

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Many years ago, in Galaxy magazine, Jerry Pournelle devoted his A Step Farther Out column to describing how satellites could be used to harvest solar energy on a scale impossible underneath Earth’s atmosphere.

The idea never really went away, but it’s been mostly out of the spotlight. Now, Reuters is reporting a study by the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) which touts orbital power as being technically feasible.

NASA’s former head of concepts John Mankins (now head of Artemis Innovation Management Solutions of California) is quoted as saying “solar power derived from space could play a tremendously important role in meeting the global need for energy during the 21st century” (“could” simultaneously meaning “if someone finds the money”, “if the engineering is as feasible as we think it is”, “if we don’t have a disaster that fries someone Earth-side”, and “if some whacko protest movement doesn’t run up a handy conspiracy theory to bring an end to the whole idea” - El Reg).

Certainly the engineering challenges would be formidable: power would be transferred from satellites to Earth as very high-powered microwave signals to be captured by a network of large antennas.

The satellites, at around 1km across, would be too large to be launched in one shot, so they would need to be assembled in space (the IAA report recommends using low-cost reusable launchers in the long term, with part of the budget for this idea to be spent on spaceship development). And as has been clear ever since Pournelle discussed the idea, control over the satellites and the power-carrying beam would need to be very precise.

Mankins told Reuters a moderate scale demonstration could be accomplished “for tens of billions of dollars less than previously projected”.

The advantages are that in addition to getting much more sunlight than is available under the atmosphere, the “solar satellites” could – space junk permitting – be positioned to operate 24 hours a day.

The 248-page study took two years to complete. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.