Feeds

Enormous orbiting solar raygun power plants touted

Trusty scientifiction staple gets another outing

Business security measures using SSL

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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.