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Space-Based Solar Power An Opportunity for Strategic Security. Outline. Trends of Concern Space-Based Solar Power DoD, National, and International Impact The Role of U.S. Government Leadership. The Energy Challenge Our Generation’s Challenge. When asked shortly after WWII:

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Presentation Transcript
  • Trends of Concern
  • Space-Based Solar Power
    • DoD, National, and International Impact
  • The Role of U.S. Government Leadership
the energy challenge our generation s challenge
The Energy ChallengeOur Generation’s Challenge

When asked shortly after WWII:

“Prof Einstein, what do you see as the greatest threat to mankind?”

His prompt reply:

“Exponential growth.”

the energy challenge trends of concern

Middle East


Western Europe


Eastern Europe


Our Hemisphere


(US = 4%)





The Energy Challenge Trends of Concern



  • Energy growth tracks w/ population & economic growth
  • Liquid fossil fuels may peak before alternatives come on line causing inability for supply to match demand, shortages & economic shock,instability / state failure, and great power competition
  • Three energy concerns: 1) mobility fuels, 2) base-load electricity, 3) peak-use electricity
  • By 2025, the world will have added 2 billion more people, 56%of the global population will be in Asia, and 66% will live in urban areas along the coasts

Climate Change

American Competitiveness

  • Increased CO2 production may alter the Earth’s climate, possibly causing:
    • Rising ocean levels and loss of coastal areas
    • More intense tropical storms & humanitarian ops
    • Agricultural climate change—causing migration, and shifts in power, ethnic & land based conflict
  • The U.S. is losing globalmarket share & leadership
  • R&D investments & skilledworkforce are declining
    • "a major workforce crisis in the aerospace industry…a threat to national security and the U.S. ability to continue as a world leader.”
the energy challenge future energy options must be
The Energy ChallengeFuture Energy Options Must Be…
  • Following wood, coal, and oil, the 4th energy must be*:
    • Non-depletable - to prevent resource conflicts
    • Environmentally clean – to permit a sustainable future
    • [Continuously] Available – to provide base-load security for everyone
    • In a usable form – to permit efficient consumption & minimal infrastructure
    • Low cost - to permit constructive opportunity for all populations
  • A portfolio of substantial investments are needed, but options in the next 20-30 years are limited…

* Adapted from Dr. Ralph Nansen’s book, “Sun Power”


The Energy Challenge But What If National Leaders Had A Solution…

  • That Directly Addresses Global Energy Security Concerns?
    • Can Deliver Power to World’s Energy Rich and Poor Alike
    • Provides A Truly Sustainable & Clean Energy Path Thru 21st Century
  • While Enhancing U.S. Competitiveness and Export Opportunities?
    • Today’s U.S. Technical Leadership Can Become Economic Boom
    • (Space Carrying Trade, Energy Export, Material Science, Robotics,…)
  • With Pre-existing U.S. Public Support?
    • 2002 American Space Use Poll - #1: Space Energy #2: Planetary Defense
  • That Propels A Respected U.S. International Leadership Image?
    • Demonstrating a Global Solution to a Global Problem
  • And Responds to the Interests of Both Political Parties?
    • Benefiting Conservative Business Interests
    • Benefiting Liberal Social & Environmental Interests
capabilities and challenges what is space solar power
Capabilities and ChallengesWhat is Space Solar Power?
  • Solar Energy iscaptured in space by large photovoltaic arrays and transmitted via a coherent microwave or laser beam to an Earth receiver where it is converted into either base-load electric power, low-intensity charging power, or synthetic fuels
  • Sunlight captured in space is many times more effective in providing continuous base load power compared to a solar array on the Earth
  • SBSP has been studied since 1970’s by DOE, NASA, ESA, and JAXA, but has generally “fallen through the cracks” because no organization is responsible for both Space Programs and Energy Security

Space Solar

Solar Intensity

1,366 W/m2

No Night

Min Weather

Ground Solar

Solar Intensity

1,000 W/m2

Night Loss

Weather Loss

dod national and international impact invest survive flourish and grow a future history
DoD, National, and International ImpactInvest, Survive, Flourish and Grow – A Future History

Sustainable Civilization

Stable Population

Stable Climate



Reduce Conflict

Reduce GHG

Stellar Probe

Less Poverty

Nations develop


Growth in GDP


Export Markets





Clean Energy



Directed Energy






“Dredge Harbor”


Launch Vehicle


Wireless Power


Space Radar

Traffic Control



dod national and international impact sbsp economic opportunities
DoD, National, and International ImpactSBSP Economic Opportunities
  • Energy Sales
    • U.S. Energy Companies & Utilitiesas Global Market Suppliers of Clean Energy
  • Space Access
    • Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) for Rapid/Low-Cost SpaceAccess (<$500/kg)
    • Space Tourism / Travel
    • Lunar resource extraction/utilization following NASA exploration
  • Orbital Infrastructure
    • In-space Transport and Maintenance
    • Space Manufacturing Systems
    • Robotic Systems
  • Power Generation
    • High-efficiency/High-volume Space & Terrestrial Solar Collection Systems
    • Space & Terrestrial Power Distribution Technology
  • Wireless Power Beaming
    • Terrestrial Remote Power Transmission (Low-Cost Modern Infrastructure)
    • Continuous Electronics Re-Charge (Expanded Wireless Capabilities)
    • Enhanced Telecommunications Capabilities (Industrial & Personal)
    • Enhanced/Persistent Earth Monitoring (Radar Systems)
dod national and international impact sbsp national security benefits
DoD, National, and International Impact SBSP National Security Benefits
  • Space Access and Maneuver
    • RLV Development for Operationally Responsive Space
    • Increased technical readiness for Space Tethers
  • Surveillance
    • High Power and Large Aperture development for Space Radar
  • Space Structures
    • Higher efficiency and Lighter Weight Solar Cells
    • Increased technical readiness for Membrane & Solar Dynamic Structures
  • Industrial and Science & Technology Capabilities
    • Preservation of a Robust Aerospace Industry
    • Science and Engineering Educational emphasis
    • Advanced Robotics and Unmanned Systems
  • Operational Maneuver on Earth
    • Increased technical readiness for Direct Beaming of Transmitted Power
    • Electricity-to-Fuel Conversion competence
dod national and international impact dod sbsp energy applications
DoD, National, and International ImpactDoD SBSP Energy Applications
  • 24/7 Off-Grid Garrison Base Power
    • 5 - 15 MW/day rectenna
  • 24/7 Deployed Base Power & Fuel
    • 5-8 MW continuous requirement
    • JP-8 via Sabatier & refining processes
    • Floating rectenna = sea base capability
  • Humanitarian/Nation Building Power
    • Defendable electrical power supply
    • Energy w/low infrastructure cost/time
  • Mobile Platform/Soldier Power
    • Direct beaming to air or seaborne platforms
    • Low-power beaming for soldier recharge
    • Enables permanent surveillance/ops
  • Space Applications
    • Satellite power/maneuver
    • Space-based radar
    • Debris de-orbit

Courtesy of Northrop Grumman

Courtesy of Raytheon


Capabilities and ChallengesIf this has been looked at before, what’s changed?


  • 40% Efficient Solar Cells!
  • Materials / Nanotechnology
  • Radar & Laser Technology
  • Robotics / In-Space
  • Construction & Servicing
  • Deployable / Gossamer
  • Structures
  • Thermal Protection
  • Tethers


NASA Fresh-Look & SERT Studies

capabilities and challenges security the space solar power option
Capabilities and Challenges Security & the Space Solar Power Option
  • Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) is an attractive long-term technology option that involves a compelling synergy between Energy Security, Space Security, and National Security
  • Japan, China, India & EU already see the potential
  • The most significant technical challenges are the development of
    • Low-cost re-usable space access
    • Demonstration of space-to-Earth power beaming
    • Efficient and light space-qualified solar arrays
    • Space Assembly, Maintenance and Servicing, and
    • Large in-space structures
  • These are in areas that already interest the DoD and others – and with modest departures to current R&D efforts could retire many of the technical barriers to Space-Based Solar Power
dod national and international impact proposed vision objectives of space solar power
DoD, National, and International ImpactProposed Vision & Objectives of Space Solar Power

Assured Energy Security

for the U.S. and Its Allies

through Affordable & Abundant

Space Solar Power

with First Power within 25 years


The United States and Partners enable – within the next 20 years – the development and deployment of affordable Space Solar Power systems that assure the long-term, sustainable energy security of the U.S. and all mankind

Innovation that Creates Novel Technologies and Systems Enabling New, Highly Profitable Industries on Earth and in Space


U.S. Preeminence

in Space Access and Operations through Dramatic Advances in Transformational Space Capabilities

the role of u s government leadership a potential action plan
The Role of U.S. Government LeadershipA Potential Action Plan
  • Space-Based Solar Power…
    • Should be re-evaluated for technical feasibility and deliverability in a strategically relevant period (other nations have stated goals & started R&D)
    • May offer significant & unique energy security benefitsin an international context
    • Requires only a relatively modest additional investment to address key barriers
    • Represents a small departure from existing U.S. (DOD, DOE, NASA) programs…but involves tremendous synergies with other national goals
  • The U.S. may want to consider a major SBSP program
    • U.S. Government can play a significant role because its responsibilities and programs “straddle” energy, security, and space
  • Next Steps (Action Items/Options):
    • (A) NSSO initial situation-assessment architecture study through Sep 2007
    • (O) Sponsor a fast-paced directed ‘quick-look’ study (3-4 months; $500K)
    • (O) If the results are positive, a larger scale, ‘seedling-type’ study should be undertaken to add legitimacy (12 months: $2M)
    • (O) Results would inform a range of decisions by NLT 2009
    • (O) Form a national SBSP organization w/concept demos in 5-7 years
the role of u s government leadership development steps for consideration
The Role of U.S. Government LeadershipDevelopment Steps for Consideration
  • “Quick Look” Study [4-months, $500K]
    • “State-of-the-art” review using existing NASA modeling tools
  • “Seedling” Study [12-months; $2M]
    • Technical, financial, environmental, organizationalrisk-retirementroadmaps
    • Identify legitimate SBSP development partner groups
    • Build a credible business case
  • Private/Public SBSP Corporation
    • Congressionally approved entity using successful Commsat model
  • Concept Demonstrations [5-7 years]
    • Should include international & entrepreneurial partnership where able
    • DARPA-led w/NASA, DOE, NSF & DoD collaboration
      • Ground-to-ground high-power microwave or laser transmission
      • Ground-to-aerostat-to-ground microwave or laser retransmission
      • LEO- and GEO-to-Earth power transmission
      • Space-to-space power transmission
      • Orbital maneuver & space infrastructure technologies
      • Low-cost space access technology development and flight demonstrations



The Role of U.S. Government LeadershipJoining Government, Commercial, & Int’l SBSP Interests


Solar Cells






The United States and Partners enable – within the next 20 years – the development and deployment of affordable Space Solar Power systems that assure the long-term, sustainable energy security of the U.S. and all mankind






Nat’l Labs; Academia

Robotics, Materials, Computational Intelligence,

Lasers, Chips, WPT…


Private Investment

Energy, Aerospace, Telecom, Venture…

International “Intelsat-Type” Corporation

Energy & Launch Services

”We Do These Things Not Because They Are Easy, but Because they Are Hard…”

- President John F. Kennedy

conclusion space based solar power a strategic opportunity for america
ConclusionSpace-Based Solar Power – A Strategic Opportunity for America

Energy Security

Environmental Security


Economic Competitiveness

National Needs

Bring feasibility to the attention of nat’l leadership - highlight USG’s enabling role

the potential of space solar power broad public support
The Potential of Space Solar PowerBroad Public Support
  • Over the years, a number of goals have been proposed for the U.S. space program including missions to Mars (Zubrin 1996), space colonization (O'Neill 1976), a return to the moon (Spudis 1996), and space tourism (David 2004). The purpose of this exploratory study was to measure the level of public interest in different space goals.
  • Two goals stood out far beyond all others. The first of these goals was developing the capability of using Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) or space energy to meet the nation's energy needs. In 2002 32 percent, nearly 1/3 of the respondents, supported this goal. In 2005, 35 percent, again nearly 1/3 of respondents, supported the development of SBSP. The second goal that appeared to receive broad support was developing the technology to deflect asteroids or comets that might threaten the Earth with impact (planetary defense).

2002 Survey - National Space Goals

Matula & Loveland, 2006

sbsp is most like hydroelectric
High Capital Costs

Long Payback

No Fossil Fuel Feed


2.07 GW (peak)

High Capital Costs

Long Payback

No Fossil Fuel Feed


2.5 GW (sustained)

SBSP is most like Hydroelectric
how big is the sbsp resource
How big is the SBSP resource?

363 TW-yrs

Total area of a cylinder of 1km width and perimeter at GEO (w*2*pi*r). In reality, you would not build a ring, and individual powersats could be turned normal to the Sun. However a ring establishes the max upper limit of energy and is a good approximation. For a ring, max limit of actual radiation available in a 1km band must be reduced by self-shielding (pi/2), and perhaps worst inclination degrees (cosine of 23 degrees = .92)

Remaining Oil Reserve of 1.285 TBBL

= 249.4 TW-yrs

More and more of this oil will have to be used to recover remaining reserves

~250 TW-yrs


Annual World Energy Demand

(All Forms)

Annual energy Available

in just 1 km of GEO

All Recoverable Oil

50 TW (2050)

30 TW (2025)

Annual Energy-to-Grid On-Earth 21 TW assuming 10% Solar-to-Grid of 1 km

15 TW (2007)

Annual Oil Production ~8TW-yr

drilling up how large is the geo solar resource
Drilling Up: How large is the GEO solar resource?


1 year x 1 km wide band

≈ 212 TW-years

All Remaining Oil Resource

≈ 250 TW-years

Every Kilometer-wide band at GEO receives nearly as much energy per annum as the content of the entire remaining oil 1.28 T BBls of oil remaining

how many 5gw sps would it take to displace generating capacity
Nigeria 1

North Korea 1.5

Burma 1.5

U.S.A. Annual Growth 1-2

Venezuela 4

Thailand 5

Mexico 10

South Korea 10

Africa 20

India 23

Japan 52

China 68

U.S.A. Base-Load 69

OECD Europe 150

U.S.A. Total Capacity 200

World Today 742

Electric Gen only

World 2100 10,000

All Energy for projected population at Developed Lifestyle (50TW)

How many 5GW SPS would it take to displace generating capacity?
the limits of sbps
The Limits of SBPS

5 GW

  • Assuming Each SPS delivers 5GW:
  • It would require up to 4 SPS to built per year to meet current annual growth in US Electrical Demand (2% of 1 TW, or 20 GW)
  • It would require 200 SPS to replace current US Generating Capacity of 1 TW (70% Fossil Fuels, 50% Coal)
  • It would require 742 SPS to meet today’s World Electrical Demand of 3.7TW, spaced one every 357 km
  • It would require 10 to replace current generating capacity of Mexico or South Korea;1 for Nigeria, 4 for venezuela, 5 Thailand, 20 doubles all africa,
  • It would require 10,000 SPS to meet the Total Energy Demand of the World in 2100, estimated to be 50TW (50,000GW, or 5KWe for each of 10 billion people)

A New ApproachSpace Power Feasibility Evolution



Japan METI / JASDA Study







NASA Fresh Look

NASA / DOE studies



NRC Report

Reference Design

Peter Glaser Proposes


does this look like an energy project to you
$.7 – 1.2B first unit cost

($6-10B Development)

$1 - 5B

Does this look like an energy project to you?


It should. Think of an RLV as an energy mining platform.

The way to energy security is through space.