Feeds

Enormous orbiting solar raygun power plants touted

Trusty scientifiction staple gets another outing

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.