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Issues in development of space-based solar power

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1 Author(s)
Jenkins, L.M. ; Jenkins Enterprises, Houston, TX

Space-Based Solar Power - (SBSP) is a concept that has considerable potential to provide clean renewable energy. Increased population coupled with reduced natural resources represent a challenge to national and world security. The SBSP concept is to collect energy from the Sun in Earth orbit. The electrical energy is converted to microwave frequency for transmission to the surface of the Earth. There it is converted back in to electricity for use. Possible usages are base-load power, fuel conversion or direct delivery to consumers in isolated locations. The available potential of solar energy is greater than energy in petroleum reserves. The primary issue is defining the path to development of SBSP capability. A critical parameter is the cost of delivery of components to orbit. There are a variety of concepts with the potential to reduce cost of payload in orbit. It is important to make a commitment to the development of a capability with cost efficiency as the prime objective. Current technology supports viability of the SBSP. A government-supported proof of concept demonstration would focus initial efforts. There are a number of ideas to be described that fit the demonstration objectives. Analysis of SBSP has defined certain key questions. Can the SBSP system be designed to be environmentally safe? Can clear targets for economic viability in markets of interest be identified? Are there technical development goals and a roadmap for reducing risk? Selection of design trades could enable the best options. The government is expected to take the lead in initial action. The transition to commercial application requires a defined vision. This goal needs to be funded with a focus on development of this solution to energy security.

Published in:

Aerospace conference, 2009 IEEE

Date of Conference:

7-14 March 2009

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