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Public Discussion Opened on Space Solar Power

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the armchair-influence dept.

Space 195

eldavojohn writes "The National Security Space Office (NSSO), an office of the DoD, has taken a novel approach to a study they are doing on space based solar power. They've opened a public forum for it and are interested in anyone and everyone's expertise, experience and ideas on the best means to harvest energy in space. I suppose this is similar to the DoD's $1 million for an energy pack just without the award. Still, if you want to have an influence on the US's plans in space, this would be an easy armchair place to start. Space.com also has more on the details."

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Too late for nonterrestrial resources utilization? (5, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987373)

Interestingly it was Gerard O'Neill who argued in the 1970's for solar power satellites constructed from lunar material and, as part of that argument predicted the industrialization of China would lead to increased CO2 emissions from coal burning that would mandate radical restructuring of global energy technology. It may be too late now to pursue nonterrestrial material SPS since the baby boomer generation, raised and educated to pioneer space from childhood, was denied that opportunity by --- well that is the question of the millennium if not the epoch isn't it? There are almost as many answers to that question as there are religions.

The proximate cause was that despite there being an obvious direction in place subsequent to the space race (remember the Apollo program?) that could have been followed through to space industrialization -- the launch service industry did not enjoy the same protection from government competition that the satellite industry enjoyed [presageinc.com] :

* (c) Private enterprise; access; competition

In order to facilitate this development and to provide for the widest possible participation by private enterprise, United States participation in the global system shall be in the form of a private corporation, subject to appropriate governmental regulation. It is the intent of Congress that all authorized users shall have nondiscriminatory access to the system; that maximum competition be maintained in the provision of equipment and services utilized by the system; that the corporation created under this chapter be so organized and operated as to maintain and strengthen competition in the provision of communications services to the public; and that the activities of the corporation created under this chapter and of the persons or companies participating in the ownership of the corporation shall be consistent with the Federal antitrust laws.

It wasn't until 1990, when a coalition of grassroots groups across the country lobbied hard for 3 years [geocities.com] , that similar legislation got passed for launch services.

The fact that Malthusian paradigm didn't precisely follow the Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" model [majorityrights.com] doesn't change the reality of the Malthusian paradigm given a fundamentally limited biosphere undergoing its largest extinction event in 60 million years. The Club of Rome merely added academic fashion to the urgency of the Malthusian situation still facing the biosphere. The 1970s was the right time to start the drive for space industrialization based on a private launch service industry. It didn't happen, the pioneering culture that founded the US is being replaced by government policy with less pioneering cultures and now we're all facing some increasingly obvious difficulties -- not just pioneer American stock -- and not just humans.

The cost of getting silicon into space from the lunar surface would be orders of magnitude less than launching from earth due not only to the much shallower gravity well but also due to the absence of atmosphere.

No beanstalk needed.

At worst a Dyneema Rotovator [slashdot.org] might be needed but probably not even that.

First, the bulk of the materials are manufactured in space from lunar raw material transported to orbital facilities so you don't need to land those facilities on the lunar surface, and you don't have to worry about g-loading the raw materials you are sending to the orbital facilities.

Second, you don't manufacture everything in space -- only bulky materials like solar cells, reflectors, structural members and perhaps klystrons. Only residual materials (raw and manufactured) are of terrestrial origin.

Third, the facility you do put on the lunar surface is there primarily to transport raw materials off the surface, and that facility can be made partially self replicating (as can the orbital facility) under telepresence monitoring with a partial autonomy of basic functions.

The system design as of 1980, in response to NASA's failed promise to deliver low cost access to space via the space shuttle program, would have a doubling time of 90 days. Those numbers and other answers are in:

O'Neill, Gerard K.; Driggers, G.; and O'Leary, B.: New Routes to Manufacturing in Space. Astronautics and Aeronautics, vol. 18, October 1980, pp. 46-51.

Wrong priorities? (5, Insightful)

vigmeister (1112659) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987389)

best means to harvest energy in space
First figure out if there is an efficient way to bring this energy back to earth...

Cheers!

Re:Wrong priorities? (5, Interesting)

Brandon30X (34344) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987449)

How about this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkVlkSnoGNM [youtube.com]

-Brandon

Re:Wrong priorities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988569)

we can definitely improve over a 30 year old tech but 1.4km and hundreds of km are on entirely different scales of magnitude. few challenges that i can think of:
- the radiation spreading over an area instead of hitting just the receiver
- atmosphere adding to the above effect
- interference with lower orbit objects. not a major problem for the system but may be for the object.

Of course, the satellite doesn't need to be in a geostationary orbit. it can collect energy all day long and dump it every now and then. I would rather see some movement towards terrestrial solar farm.

btw, recent record of 42.8% efficiency of solar cells combined with this would be about 35%.

Re:Wrong priorities? (1)

ItsLenny (1132387) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987535)

long copper wires... duh

;-)

Re:Wrong priorities? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987583)

I remember thinking about how to use the energy you could get from Dyson Sphere-ing a nearby star, back to earth in useful form. That is, move lots of energy, a long distance, on a "truck". Theoretically, since you can draw nuclear energy from uranium, you should be able to convert lower-numbered elements into uranium to store energy.

But that maybe be too much for energy absorption this far from the sun ;-)

Re:Wrong priorities? (1)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987987)

Do the world a favor and stay far, far away from any science or technical field. The ignorance in your post is staggering.

Re:Wrong priorities? (5, Funny)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988009)

That is, move lots of energy, a long distance, on a "truck". Theoretically, since you can draw nuclear energy from uranium, you should be able to convert lower-numbered elements into uranium to store energy.

It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes, silly. In all seriousness, yes, you can build hydrogen all the way up to Uranium. Happens all the time in supernovae. Well . . . some of the time. But that generates an awful lot of "waste heat" you aren't capturing, you have to ship the mass of the uranium out of the gravity well of a star, slow it down to catch it when it gets here (which will take tens or tens of thousands of years depending on how fast you throw it and which star you're using). I figure, if you can build a dyson sphere around a distant star, you can probably build a tightly focused high energy and high efficiency laser emitter and receiver/collector that'll recover a useful amount of power to make the whole ordeal worthwhile. Tho if you're that advanced, you might as well just go to that star and live there.

Not really (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987849)

The collection SHOULD be a separate issue from the transmission of it. In fact, They would be making a mistake in trying to build a single unit to do it all. By definition, a collector is going to be pretty big and will probably be located at in very high orbits. Rather than move it around, it should have small relay points which are cheap and easy to move around. More importantly, you would be able to set up multiple power points and beam them in various areas. Such as we need power not only in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, and perhaps even Japan could use some supplemental boosts.

Re:Not really (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988007)

Rather than move it around, it should have small relay points which are cheap and easy to move around. More importantly, you would be able to set up multiple power points and beam them in various areas.

I believe that was called the Star Wars Missile Defense System... but on the serious side, that's a pretty good idea, as long as you can solve some basic problems like accurate aiming, beam attenuation through an atmosphere, etc.

Re:Not really (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988449)

The advantage of this, is that you really can change it around. In particular, assume that at geo-synch you have several collectors who grab data all the time. They beam down to leo via laser. From there, a spectrum may be found that can easily penetrate the upper atmosphere which strikes a slow moving plane (or higher up with one of the VERY high ballons). Then finally beams in multitudes of directions. The advantage of this, is that rather than a single stage, we use different tech depending on the layer of atmosphere that we are beaming to. In addition, it makes it cheap to change configurations.

Different ways of thinking about it (3, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987915)

The traditional way to think about it is 'beaming' energy back to earth in some fashion (microwaves? laser? etc). But another way to harvest energy is to use it to refine resources in space ... use the energy to harvest or refine near earth objects (NEO) or lunar regolith. The refined material can be very valuable (there are high concentrations of rare and precious metals in NEO's), and then shipped back to earth more conventionally. Or used to construct in orbit.

Re:Different ways of thinking about it (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987971)

Ok, this is going to sound crazy (but when has that ever stopped me?), but who needs to beam the energy anywhere? Introducing: space wires. Hey , if someone can come up with the seemingly hare-brained idea of the space elevator to haul things up out of the gravity well, then how about lines running down from space to transmission points on the ground? Yes, I know... feasibility is an issue, but hey that's part of the fun!

Re:Different ways of thinking about it (1)

Intron (870560) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988393)

Given that all space projects in the US are run by and for DOD, the added benefit of "beaming" is the ability to focus the beam of energy on undesireable features on the surface of the Earth. Think long and hard about who gets the joystick that aims this thing.

Uninformed: Microwaves (3, Funny)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987991)

Microwave Rectennas would enable the transport of power back to the Earth's surface just fine. The radiation is relatively diffuse, non-ionizing, and would do no more to birds flying overhead than heat them up.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_satellite [wikipedia.org]

Unlimited Solar Power, a burgeoning Space Program, and free cooked poultry falling from the sky! What more could you ask for?

Re:Wrong priorities? (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988405)

Everyone's so focused on "beaming" the energy down. How boring.

I think we should have a gigantic kinetic-energy capturing device in the middle of a desert. Something akin to a bicycle pedal that turns a wheel. Then, you chuck massive rocks at it from space.

You can even turn it into a international sport. If you hit, the wheel spins, and your country gets the generated energy and another toss. If you miss, you cause a mucking huge "explosion", make a crater, and give the launcher up to the next team.

The TV rights alone could pay for the system.

Re:Wrong priorities? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988481)

Dear Sir,

I like your idea and wish to subscribe to your RSS feed. Also, I might note that the dirt in the atmosphere from "misses" could aid in reducing global warming by reflecting sunlight. Two birds with one stone plus a new sport...

I've got great ideas (-1, Flamebait)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987395)

I've been thinking about this and discussing it for quite a long time. I've got some great ideas, some plans, and a friend who does genetic engineering has some complimentary ideas that seem promising.

But, quite frankly, I'd rather see humanity burn in flames than see the Americans in possession of the technology.

Re:I've got great ideas (2, Insightful)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987537)

>>But, quite frankly, I'd rather see humanity burn in flames than see the Americans in possession of the technology.

U-S-A #1! U-S-A #1! U-S-A #1!

Actually, the US would probably be pretty isolationist now if energy wasn't a concern.

Re:I've got great ideas (2, Interesting)

ItsLenny (1132387) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987561)

agreed... I have to say the only reason the US is over seas is because of energy...

if the rest of the world wants to shut us up and keep them out of their hair they should just give us plans for an easy never ending supply of renewable energy.

Re:I've got great ideas (1)

Orange Crush (934731) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987759)

they should just give us plans for an easy never ending supply of renewable energy.

Here you go. [wikipedia.org] Of course, that's not exactly "renewable" or "never ending" but it'll do for the next several hundred million years (depending on which fuel you pick). Billions if you can figure out commercially viable fusion.

This whole "energy crisis" nonsense isn't actually an energy problem, it's an infrastructure problem. What I really want are some more breakthroughs in energy storage. Batteries suck. I want something that'll power my car with comparable energy density and safety factors to gasoline.

Re:I've got great ideas (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987913)

Worse yet, batteries and hydrogen are the worse ways to go. And yet, everybody wants to push one of the two approaches. Instead, capacitors is superior, as is even using superconductors for electron storage. Safety factors are ridiculous. Gas is unsafe. It was made safe due to regulations. The same can happen with everything else.

Re:I've got great ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19987659)

Of course, if Americans did get possession of such technology, you can basically guarantee that humanity WILL burn in flames, because you can bet the first use of such technology would be to burn "potential terrorists" from space.

And if you disagree that the US should have a giant space laser, then you're a "potential terrorist" and you can bet your village will burn.

And if anyone thinks this won't happen, just think back to the Star Wars project.

Re:I've got great ideas (1)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988061)

And if you disagree that the US should have a giant space laser, then you're a "potential terrorist" and you can bet your village will burn.

And if anyone thinks this won't happen, just think back to the Star Wars project.


Yeah, I remember all those villages being burned up as a result of the Star Wars project. That was horrible. We certainly don't want to go down that road again. We should turn the United States into a pastoral agrarian country where we will put all the world's immigrants as restitution for the United States being successful, rich, and oh yeah, slavery was their fault too. And if, say China should get solar power up first, they should burn the US! Yah! That's the ticket.

Re:I've got great ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988577)

Yeah, I remember all those villages being burned up as a result of the Star Wars project. That was horrible. We certainly don't want to go down that road again.

Of course - the Star Wars project never succeeded. But it demonstrated the US's goal to weaponise space.

We should turn the United States into a pastoral agrarian country where we will put all the world's immigrants as restitution for the United States being successful, rich

Why not - the US's industrial revolution began by stealing patented technology from England without ever repaying the original inventors. In fact the US still proudly celebrates that fact. Go look up Lowell, Massachusetts - there are museums there that showcase the stolen technology.

and oh yeah, slavery was their fault too

Remember why the US abolished slavery? The hope was that the slaves would suddenly join their army and help fight against the rebel southern states. Most abolitionists in the northern states didn't want Africans in the US - they wanted to ship the freed slaves back to Africa. This is how Liberia was founded.

Not to mention that in recent times, the US has simply renamed a slave to an "H1-B visa holder".

No giant space laser! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988217)

A huge magnifying glass will do. I would burn you like an ant. How cool would that be?

Re:I've got great ideas (3, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987895)

You know what, you're right. Fuck the rest of the world. We (America) will pull every troop out of every nation we are operating in, we will stop providing billions to the world in food, medicine, and clothing, and we will no longer respond when a natural disaster occurs.

We will put every one of our troops on our border and shoot anyone trying to get in. Anyone that want's out is free to leave. Once you leave, you cannot come back in.

We will give ZERO food and money to ANY nation. We will simply take care of ourselves, and fuck the rest of you.

America may do some horrible things, but people seem to forget the GOOD things that we do. You don't like it or appreciate it? Fine. Fuck if we care.

If we do help out, we are being nosey and putting ourselves where "we don't belong". If we DON'T help, we are being "stupid selfish Americans". Well FUCK you. No one makes us give away billions upon billions of dollars a year. NO ONE.

We have done and do fucked up things; I will never deny that. However, NEVER forget that we also do some amazing things. We help literally millions of people a day soley because we WANT to. We will gladly bow out and let the world deal with it's own problems. Just don't come crying and bitching to us when a giant wave floods your entire country or when lava buries your villages.

Re:I've got great ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988193)

>>Just don't come crying and bitching to us when a giant wave floods your entire country or when lava buries your villages.

Or any time Europe gets involved in a war...quite a few Americans have died in Europe so that punkass kids can be free to whine about American involvment in the world.

Re:I've got great ideas (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988237)

"'If we do help out, we are being nosey and putting ourselves where "we don't belong". If we DON'T help, we are being "stupid selfish Americans"."

Only a Sith sees things in terms of black and white. And we've certainly "helped out" in Iraq.

"No one makes us give away billions upon billions of dollars a year."

Too bad that the vast majority of the billions we give away are to Boeing and McDonald-Douglas and Northrop Grumman and Haliburton.

Re:I've got great ideas (2, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988329)

Only a Sith sees things in terms of black and white. And we've certainly "helped out" in Iraq.
Did I or did I not say we have done and do some fucked up things? I'm fairly certain I did. I admit that we do wrong things sometimes...but you cannot sit there and say that America doesn't support millions of people with food, clothing, and water.

Too bad that the vast majority of the billions we give away are to Boeing and McDonald-Douglas and Northrop Grumman and Haliburton.


You know what? I could be wrong in this, but last time I checked we give away hundreds of thousands of tons of food every year to 3rd world countries. Last time I checked, we spend BILLIONS in assisting countries that take the brunt of a natural disaster.

Last time I checked, we spend billions on other countries in ways that DO NOT BENEFIT US. Billions that we could instead spend on our OWN country.

Is our government corrupt? Yes. But whose government isn't? Once again, we may do fucked up things, but NO ONE, and I repeat NO ONE, makes us help a SINGLE country. We could just as easily lock ourselves up and give a big fuck you to the rest of the world. Instead, we spend our time, rescources, and risk the lives of our own men and women to assist those in need around the world.

Wherever you live, I hope you remember that when you see our national guard risking their own lives to save the lives of YOUR countrymen when their homes flood from a massive hurricane. I hope you remember that when you see OUR OWN TROOPS risk THEIR OWN LIVES to save someone like you.

The world may hate America, the world may have a shit view of us, but that hasn't stopped us has it? You may spit in our faces, but you will be spitting in our faces as we put food on the tables of millions of people around the world.

Re:I've got great ideas (1)

Bugmaster (227959) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988363)

and we will no longer respond when a natural disaster occurs.
In light of Katrina, this might actually be a GOOD thing.

Re:I've got great ideas (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988397)

once again, this goes back to mistakes we have made...something which I will never deny. We have something far from a perfect country.

Just because Babe Ruth struck out sometimes doesn't mean he was a shitty baseball player.

Re:I've got great ideas (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988647)

Just because Babe Ruth struck out sometimes doesn't mean he was a shitty baseball player.

No but if he decides for one season to start running around throwing his bat at the other players, setting the stands on fire and pissing on the umpires, I think we'd have a right to be angry at him for it.

Re:I've got great ideas (4, Insightful)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988539)

No one makes us give away billions upon billions of dollars a year. NO ONE.

The average American voter, when asked, guesses that about 15% of our budget goes to non-military foreign aid, and thinks it should be closer to 5%. In reality, it's 0.01% percent. Just, y'know, to put things in perspective.

Re:I've got great ideas (0, Flamebait)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988603)

And, y'know, when you consider our budget is a couple trillion dollars, that still comes out to a shitload of money we could instead be spending on ourselves.

Patents (0, Offtopic)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987431)

This seems like yet another reason that first-to-file patents are a terrible idea. Such a system could mean that whenever we engage in a public brainstorming session like this, some a$$ho7E comes in patents any good ideas that get floated.

Re:Patents (2, Insightful)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987711)

Yeah, sure, except for that little thing called 'prior art'.

This is actually the exact opposite of what you say. By designing something in an open, public forum, where all can see the process, we ensure that it CAN'T be patent hi-jacked...or at least, if a patent is granted, it can very easily be contested.

The whole intent of patents was to reduce the amount of secrecy out there to allow ideas to grow into new and better ideas instead of being locked away in some back room.

Re:Patents (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987771)

Yeah, sure, except for that little thing called 'prior art'.

You're thinking of a "first-to-invent" system. Here's the difference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_to_file_and_fir st_to_invent [wikipedia.org]

Re:Patents (1)

gunner2028 (922634) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988149)

I believe, that even with a first-to-file system you still have to prove that you invented the technolgy/invention. If there is a reference out there that show you did not invent the technology/invention because the invention is described in a prior art reference before the filing of the application, then the first-to-file individual will have a more difficult time proving that they were the inventor. Hence, prior art would still play a part in a first-to-file system.

Re:Patents (1)

CajunArson (465943) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988135)

You have 0 idea of what the hell you are talking about. First to file only applies to interference cases where 2 parties are competing over a patent (see 35 U.S.C. 102(g)), prior art would still be available to defeat a patent application under 35 U.S.C. 102(a)-(b), and the SIR and previous patents under 35 U.S.C. 102(e) would still be available as well.
    First to file is a very good idea since it means that the bickering going back and forth of who 'conceived' of an invention first (not to mention the evidentiary needs of showing continuuos due diligence in getting to reduction to practice from just before the point that the other party conceived of the invention, etc.) will no longer be necessary. Interference proceedings are actually relatively rare (only about 1% of applications enter interference), but they are very costly.
    Oh and yes, I am studying to take the patent bar so don't think some slashdot accepted emotional rant will be able to convince me otherwise. Learning about patents from Slashdot is like learning about black people from a KKK rally.

This Is Beautiful! (1, Flamebait)

MOBE2001 (263700) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987433)

With the internet age of mass communication and cros-pollination of ideas, we are seeing the dawning of the democratization of science. Science, like religion before it, has enclosed itself within walls beyond public scrutiny. This age-old incestuous practice is in the process of changing before your very eyes. I hope we see more experiments like this in the future.

Re:This Is Beautiful! (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987531)

The basic problem is still there, to actually do the math and make credible figures, takes a lot of time and actual math.

Average people might make suggestions, but too often, won't understand why it's not feasible.

Re:This Is Beautiful! (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988171)

Different people have different talents and understanding levels. I build all kinds of things that require large amounts of math to calculate chemical reactions and fiber reinforcements although I have no real training. People always ask me how I do it and all I can say is "I don't really know. I just do." I can look at certain things and just see the process used to make it.

Of course for a completed real world working device on something this scale I wouldn't want to build it by the seat of my pants the way I do my hobby wood, fiberglass, steel and/or resin constructs. I do believe that there are people that could look at the problem and approach it in a very complex way far beyond what a fully educated person may do. Education and experience tend to narrow the thought process to things that are guaranteed to work rather than things that are perhaps possible or even only mildly probable.

Re:This Is Beautiful! (2, Insightful)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987617)

With the internet age of mass communication and cros-pollination of ideas, we are seeing the dawning of the democratization of science. Science, like religion before it, has enclosed itself within walls beyond public scrutiny. This age-old incestuous practice is in the process of changing before your very eyes. I hope we see more experiments like this in the future.


Really? You must never have gone to a (public) university library. Plenty of science there for one to scrutinize. One just has to get off one's duff and look for it, rather than expect that it will be delivered to them for no effort.

Dear Slashdot, (5, Funny)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987585)

Dear Slashdot,
    please do our homework for us.

Sincerely,
  The National Security Space Office (NSSO), an office of the DoD

P.S. we won't use your ideas to kill or oppress people*

*actually, we will.

Re:Dear Slashdot, (1)

jkiol (1050424) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987801)

P.S.S Bonus points if it can double as a super death ray of impending doom.

Re:Dear Slashdot, (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988109)

Damnit, that asterisk was supposed to have <redacted> </redacted> tags so that Slashdotters couldn't read it!

Re:Dear Slashdot, (1)

4solarisinfo (941037) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988123)

Yes, heaven forbid a government asks its citizens for assistance. Next they'll want you to pick your own leaders, or volunteer to fight to defend your country. Hell, with this kind of thinking they'll be asking you to help write contributions to an Operating System next, like that would ever work.

I'm not a blindly faithful flag-waving patriot, but come-on! Isn't it a GOOD thing when ANY government asks the people it governs to contribute?

Re:Dear Slashdot, (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988303)

On a serious note, I think one of the best qualities a leader can have is knowing there is always someone more knowledgeable about a certain subject.. and being willing to ask that person for advice. I think this public forum is a great idea.

Another idea (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987589)

Anyone thought about just putting mirrors in space to concentrate and reflect higher intensity of sunlight back to solar power stations on earth?

I would imagine it would be cheaper than trying to hoist an entire solar power station into space, easier to upgrade as more efficient solar power methodology is developed and not suffer from trying to find the RF bandwidth to beam the energy back.

Re:Another idea (1)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987745)

I have thought of this idea before. I also think it could double nicely as a weapon.

Re:Another idea (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988215)

Plus, there's James Bond Die Another Day [wikipedia.org] (2002).

Re:Another idea (1)

TheFunk (1132987) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987817)

I was sooooo hoping that I would never see this type of article again. Because everybody comes up with the same impossible answers: use microwave beams to beam energy to earth, or better still: use mirrors to beam light to earth. microwave beams: bad idea. how large do these people think the receiver will be? How tight can you focus a beam? how about missing your (receiving) target? (sorry for vaporising your city....) etc etc. light beams:bad idea. how large do these people think the receiver will be? How tight can you focus a beam? how about missing your (receiving) target? (sorry for vaporising your city....) etc etc.

Light beams (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987937)

The light wouldn't have to be beamed back with the intensity of a magnifying glass on a bug. :) I'm not even sure normal photovoltaic cells would be able to handle that, for one thing, and for another, it could be dangerous as you describe.

Double normal intensity or less would still produce significantly more power, and not instantly fry an inadvertent target.

P.S. -- Ironically, the captcha word for this post is "disaster" :) Slashdot does have a sense of humor, after all.

Re:Another idea (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988019)

For some reason this reminds me of an old two-dimensional simulation package from high school called Interactive Physics:

Warning - Forces are large! [Stop] [Continue]

Continue!

Warning - Accelerations are large! [Stop] [Continue].

Continue!

*Stuff flies every-which-way*

Beam focus and receiver size (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988053)

The reference designs from when this was a new idea had a microwave beam power density about a quarter that of sunlight. With the beam on for 24 hours and near 100% conversion efficiency, the receiving station could be smaller than an equally powerful solar photovoltaic system, and cheaper because it would consist of antennas and diodes as opposed to acres of refined silicon. Figure a few square miles of low-value land for an antenna farm.

If you need a lower-powered beam, spread out the antenna farm into some more desert and spread out the beam to match.

Re:Another idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19987827)

Anyone thought about just putting mirrors in space to concentrate and reflect higher intensity of sunlight back to solar power stations on earth?
Yes, but they quickly realized that the weird darkness we get at night is caused by the Earth rotating. The notion of scorching the surface of the Earth during all times of the day except between 11:48:06-11:48:10 wasn't widely accepted. Then the idea of having the solar reflecter in geo-synchronous orbit, where between 21:00-06:00 it was completely useless, was also shot down.

Good idea though, really.

Re:Another idea (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988017)

Yu-huh. And tell me, again, why using solar power stations in space, beaming their energy back to earth with high-power beams, wouldn't suffer from similar problems?

Re:Another idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988119)

I never said it wouldn't, but why would we have to "beam" anything?

Re:Another idea (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988161)

That's pretty much the point, as I understand the proposal: solar power stations in space, beaming their energy back to ground stations via microwave signals (2450 MHz is often used as a proposal frequency).

If you don't align with the ground station in any case, the power will simply be wasted.

Re:Another idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988479)

Right, obviously what I'm saying is that the proposal is silly, the station will be useless for at least 1/3 of the day. I certainly don't see how a solar reflector is any better though.

Re:Another idea (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987925)

One word... ants.

Re:Another idea (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988103)

Re:Another idea (1)

Kythe (4779) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988125)

Sorta brings home, doesn't it, how much more difficult it will be to put not only a mirror (which has to be aligned) into space, but an entire solar power station up there instead.

Re:Another idea (1)

4solarisinfo (941037) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988513)

No, I'm sure the very first, you should go to the USPTO right now. Quick, before your read anything else!

Fascinating subject (4, Interesting)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987595)

I've been on-and-off interested in this subject for years now - the prospect of being able to gather solar energy more directly, even with horribly inneficient technique, would be a complete transformation in terms of our ability to gather energy for human use.

Three basic problematic areas:

1. Return Delivery for energy. A beam would be the most obvious approach, as no conventional matter would be easilly sustained without something like a space elevator bringing enriched material up and down constantly. An exception would be antimatter, though that would be horribly dangerous on a scale that would make any concentrated beam mishap look like nothing.

2. Energy effects on the earth. Increased energy use, in any form, is going to have various effects on our ecosystem. We'll have to devote a percentage of our global energy use to offset this in some way, hopefully without a tragedy of the commons effect leftover.

3. Upkeep: Materials break down when they transfer the kinds of energy under consideration here. This won't just be a simple solar-panel install job in space. The materials involved will have to be self-repairing in some way if they're going to get closer and closer to the sun. Perhaps they'll function by 'flowing' with the solar winds, then reforming at the front. This promises to be a fascinating task for engineers and scientists looking to harvest such enormous resources safely and (relatively) efficiently.

Every aspect of this subject bristles with the various concerns of humanity - it'll be interesting to say the least what this group can go over.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Fascinating subject (2, Interesting)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987979)

I think one way to do this would be to use a beam but instead of one giant solar collecting satellite dumping a huge laser beam to a spceific spot and hope it doesn't miss, why not have several smaller satellites each generating only enough power to maybe give you or something a bad sunburn. Then focus all of them to a single boiler or collector of some kind.

This would help to solve the scare of a huge beam missing and the worry of maintaining equipment that focuses excessive amounts of power through one part in space.

Re:Fascinating subject (1)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988175)

Yeah, but then the problem arises in the logistics of putting up countless "weak" satellites presumeably in earth orbit, each with high inefficiency. That's a problem that could be solved, by say having nano-machines mine materials from low-gravity sources - but that kind of an idea is still way off.

If you want a reasonable return on the energy and material investment, I'd think that a concentrated return kind of has to be part of the process - which brings up the problem of what materials you can possibly use when dealing with such high energy situations that I mentioned. I'd think that a closer solar orbit returning energy to perhaps an space station near earth would be somewhat safe for the earth itself - but these are huge energies and huge consequences we're dealing with all the same.

Ah, the problems of exploiting a titanic nuclear explosion billions of years ongoing.

Ryan Fenton

Re:Fascinating subject (1)

jdjbuffalo (318589) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988145)

I wonder whether we would get much energy by beaming it down to the planet.

First off, we are only getting say 30-40% of the sunlight using our best solar panels (available in the near future).

Secondly, we are probably not going to get a lot of efficiency by beaming the power down to Earth. I would guess we only get like 10-20%.

So unless we can drastically increase these numbers, I'm not sure we'll be able to get much benefit from simply beaming the power down from space.

Re:Fascinating subject (1)

Brandon30X (34344) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988415)

Just want to say that things are not as bleak as they seem, recent advances in solar cell technology have pushed efficiencies up to 43%. Solar power density in space is greater than on the surface because of atmospheric attenuation. And end to end microwave power transmission (read DC to DC) was greater than 50% 30 years ago (see my youtube link in a post above). Now rectenna efficiencies (the part that converts RF to DC) are greater than 85% for lower power densities. Unfortunately RF generation is not nearly as efficient.

-Brandon

Complete rookie question (1)

sleigher (961421) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988421)

I know and I apologize in advance......

Could something like this be used in the same way DISH sends TV down? Blanket a city with a weak enough beam not to hurt anyone, but if everyone had a receptor on their roof they could at least supplement their energy usage? At least enough to make some type of significant cut in fossil fuel/coal usage? Like I said, I know nothing of this and am really just curious.

Giant Space Death Ray (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19987599)

Warning: Giant Space Death Ray may lead to premature combustion.

random idea #2453 (2, Funny)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987637)

Build a giant parabolic mirror on the moon, from moon material and use (solar powered) motors to make it point to a specific location on earth. Alternatively, point it on the Whitehouse unless they pay $1,000,000,000,000,000,000

Impossible? (2, Interesting)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987643)

I'm reading the public forum, and someone ran the math and said that it would take 10,000 years to build a solar array [wordpress.com] large enough to replace our current energy use. The limiting factor is how hard it is to move something that large and heaving into orbit.

If these figures are accurate, then this is a pointless endeavor.

To replace, yes (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987875)

But this is NOT about replacing. It is about giving emergency and quick response times a hand. Such as when Katrina (or any hurricane) happened, or earthquakes, etc happens. If power can be sent to these places BEFORE emergency crews have started in, then it gives them a fighting chance to help ppl.

Re:Impossible? (1)

cmowire (254489) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988165)

Your presentation assumes that the solar arrays would be launched from earth on current launch vehicles.

This means that either we need to build better launch vehicles so as to send up more cargo on a single launch or start building them in space.

The second one ought to work out quite well, considering that most metal refinery plants are build in close proximity to power plants for a good reason...

Re:Impossible? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988279)

I'm reading the public forum, and someone ran the math and said that it would take 10,000 years to build a solar array large enough to replace our current energy use. The limiting factor is how hard it is to move something that large and heaving into orbit.

There's some pretty strong assumptions though going into the "10,000 years" figure. The first is that it would need to replace -all- our energy use. If space solar power only replaced a few percent of our energy usage, but at an economical price, it would still be an important endeavor.

Another is that the maximum lift capacity we could ever have is a single EELV Heavy per day. If there were demand for it, one could imagine that something like the Sea Dragon [wikipedia.org] (which would have lift capacity of ~550 metric tons to LEO compared to ~25 metric tons for a Delta 4 Heavy) could be mass-produced. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if SpaceX could get something like the Falcon 9 [wikipedia.org] to launch several times a day.

Re:Impossible? (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988599)

If there were demand for it, one could imagine that something like the Sea Dragon (which would have lift capacity of ~550 metric tons to LEO compared to ~25 metric tons for a Delta 4 Heavy) could be mass-produced.

Oh, don't be a wimp. How about this puppy [nuclearspace.com] which can lift 1,000 tons to orbit, is fully reusable, and has totally non-polluting exhaust! (Unless you're allergic to helium or something...)

Units? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988451)

The units are messed up: in several places the usage of watts, watt-hours and watts/hour just don't make sense.

plenty of experience (1)

pedramnavid (1069694) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987729)

time to start playing harvest moon again!

Link with some additional details (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19987811)

From a prominent member of the National Science Foundation

http://werbos.com/space.htm [werbos.com]

silly idea (3, Insightful)

uncreativeslashnick (1130315) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987897)

This represents an extraordinarilly expensive solution to a non-existent problem. We already have access to cheap, clean, and reliable power production facilities right here on Earth. It's called nuclear power.

Use nuclear power to get there (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988497)

It becomes a lot less expensive if there's a cheaper way to get stuff to orbit. Something like this [nuclearspace.com] .

Just how public is it? (1)

sabre86 (730704) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987909)

While I find this to be a great idea, the "Ground Rules [wordpress.com] " section has a bothersome rule:

None shall be permitted to cite, copy, reproduce, or distribute information from the website without the expressed written permission (email) of the author and the team leaders
Never mind that this ignores fair use and probably is an overstatement rights the website can actually claim, I think that such restrictions keep it from being truly public. The public isn't even allowed to cite the discussion, much less criticize it on a seperate forum. I mean, if this rule is somehow in enforcable, no arguments or data turned up in the discussion is actually usable by the public -- not that I can see how the rule is actually enforcable.

Of course, they simply be trying to encourage people to speak up, and I like the idea of the discussion itself, but a truly public discussion must be usable -- not just accessible to -- the public.

--sabre86

Re:Just how public is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988625)

While I find this to be a great idea, the "Ground Rules" section has a bothersome rule:

None shall be permitted to cite, copy, reproduce, or distribute information from the website without the expressed written permission (email) of the author and the team leaders

Please stop violating our Intellectual Property Rights.

spacesolarpower.wordpress.com

"Novel approach" (1)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 7 years ago | (#19987943)

has taken a novel approach [...] They've opened a public forum [..] and are interested in anyone and everyone's expertise, experience and ideas
Confounded new-fangled thinking! If close-minded, autocratic decision-making that immediately dismissed everyone's expertise, experience and ideas was good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for me.

Dear Mr. Chairman: (4, Funny)

RichPowers (998637) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988003)

As an avid SimCity 2000 player, I know that constructing large microwave dishes that receive concentrated ion beams from satellites is the best way to harvest solar energy from space. For more on ion beam satellites -- and their military uses against shadowy quasi-nationstates led by enigmatic bald men - I refer you to Command&Conquer.

ps: I suggest building these microwave power stations far away from cities, as they occasionally explode. They're also frequent targets of large, mechanical alien spider robots.

Re:Dear Mr. Chairman: (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988521)

As an avid SimCity 2000 player, I know that constructing large microwave dishes that receive concentrated ion beams from satellites is the best way to harvest solar energy from space. For more on ion beam satellites -- and their military uses against shadowy quasi-nationstates led by enigmatic bald men - I refer you to Command&Conquer.

What about using them against shadowy quasi-nationstates led by men with mullets? That's really the more immediate need for me right now.

magnifying glass (1)

doublefrost (1042496) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988063)

What ever happened to the huge orbiting magnifying glass to beam energy to an energy facility on earth idea?

Cart before the horse??? (1)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988107)

From TFA

The Space Frontier Foundation believes there are energy and environmental benefits that could come from space-based solar power - collecting solar power in space and transmitting it back to Earth

Oh, yeah, that minor detail of "transmitting it back to Earth" might be a bit of a hitch. Given that we have yet to find a way to reliably, efficiently, and safely "transmit" energy (particularly in these magnitudes) over any significant distance, I'd say this discussion is a little premature at best.

Been figured out since the '60s. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988515)

Oh, yeah, that minor detail of "transmitting it back to Earth" might be a bit of a hitch.

That detail was figured out almost half a century ago:

  - Use radio waves with wavelengths of about a millimeter. These penetrate the atmosphere well and are not strongly absorbed by water (i.e. no major losses in clouds or cooked birds falling from the sky at design power densities.)

  - Use synthetic-aperture techniques to form a beam centered on the ground-based rectenna and pilot-carrier transmitter. Loss of the pilot signal causes the transmitters to desynchronize and the beam to defocus, becoming annoying narrowband background radio noise, rather than staying focussed and tracking sideways.

Transmission losses from geosynchronous orbit to ground are comparable to those in high-tension lines from ground-based power plants to cities.

Meanwhile you can grow grass and graze cows under the rather lacy structure of the rectenna. So you don't even lose the use of the land where it is constructed.

Microwave Transfer? (2, Interesting)

dredson (620914) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988227)

The article links to an article on wikipedia that suggests using microwaves to transfer the energy from space to earth. Also using a space elevator to get the solar panels into space.

However, once there is a space elevator, there is no need for using dangerous microwaves, when you already have a direct wire going from earth to space. Just send the electricity down the wire like any terrestrial power line.

Re:Microwave Transfer? (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988667)

Just send the electricity down the wire like any terrestrial power line.

Running a massive current through the tether, even if possible, would cause all sorts of havoc. Reduction in strength (of a material already pushing the limits of material strength). Side-forces from interactions with the earth's magnetic field (and shaking from magnetic storms varying that field) could cause all sorts of havoc.

Then there's the issue that a transmission line doesn't carry any power inside the wire. The power is carried in the fields around and between the wires. You'd need more than one skyhook to complete the circuit. They'd massively repel each other - by an amount proportional to the square of the current, so it varies with load - causing still more structural issues.

= = = =

Of course the variants that involve pairs of counter-moving ribbons (and progressively larger arrays of them as you go up) as a conveyor belt also have potential to carry power - at the cost of added strength in the ribbon to transmit the power-bearing force imbalance.

= = = =

And none of this would work if the ribbon is a dipping-into/toward-the-atmosphere rotovator design, rather than an anchored-to-the-surface synchronous skyhook.

Sweet! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988409)

I'm thinkin' maybe a giant space station gathering solar power, then beaming it down with focused microwaves to special reception stations safely away from the population such that they won't get incinerated.

The space station will be manned by one guy assisted by some remote-control robots and computers from the ground. The robots will be able to do things like move things around and maybe pick up a blow torch for cutting or burning, or a hammer or something for pounding, for example, as controlled by people on the ground.

There should be radar on the station to detect incoming asteroids so they can swing the microwave magnetron around to disintegrate it, or maybe some lasers if that won't work. But the station should be able to incinerate any incoming high speed object just for safety.

Yeah, I like the sound of that plan!

Still has bad environmental effects (2, Insightful)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988417)

As we've witnessed, digging carbon from the earth (as crude oil and coal) and putting it into the atmosphere along with the heat energy from using it can have serious side-effects from injecting outside energy to a system in equilibrium.

Power needs to go somewhere as some form of energy. It might do some work, but usually ends up mostly lost as heat. All lights, stoves, heaters, etc would essentially mean nearly all of the solar energy collected was as if the sun were simply shining brighter on the earth. Imagine if they were researching how to make more sunlight hit the planet just to harness it with solar cells -- this is almost exactly the same thing.

Space energy is energy being brought into the system that wouldn't have normally entered. I don't see this as a viable form of energy. It will potentially lower greenhouse gasses, but will still screw up the ecosystem.

Re:Still has bad environmental effects (1)

Big_Breaker (190457) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988691)

Excess heat is radiated into space. Global warming is thought to be caused by greenhouse gases changing the equilibrium that determines the "excess".

Romans would make ice by keeping the ground in a pit cool during the day and allowing the heat energy from buckets of water in the pit to radiate into the cold night sky. As long as humidity was low enough, they made ice!

So the issue isn't generating heat, it's greenhouse gases trapping the heat.

India is serious about this too (1)

Dasher42 (514179) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988465)

About damn time. The state of our energy and environment affect more people now and in generations to come than any other issues on the news, period. I challenge you to find anything of such widespread and serious interest.

Not so long ago India announced that it is serious [treehugger.com] about the space solar option. I'm glad there's enough good sense in Washington to do likewise. We should get Europe and China on board, because unlike the ISS, this is the real deal and more significant to our future than going to the Moon or Mars.

Plus, it's damn cool.

First things first (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 7 years ago | (#19988581)

Mass drivers up the gravity well. I barely know what that means, but it was one of my favorite lines from Count Zero. :)

war in space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19988683)

power sources become weapons. space shoudl be weapon free.
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