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Space-based Solar Power Generation is the Future


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2022 has been a banner year for space issues with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) deployment/output/images and NASA's D.A.R.T. mission to affect the trajectory of an asteroid and begin practical testing of a Planetary Defense Mechanism. However, as truly wonderful as these two missions (and others) were, they aren't going to be the driving force of humanity's move into space as they don't really have practical, tangible, direct benefits to offer 'Somchai on the street', and we humans need that.

My guess is that the need for clean energy which can be had by bypassing local conflicts (yes, you Russia) will be the impetus in the development of space-based systems. 

A quick note as there will inevitably be comments regarding the recent Hydrogen Ignition Test successes. I love the idea that we humans will get the hang of Hydrogen as a clean fuel source, but even the most optimistic say it'll be decades before any practical, large-scale applications are available. Moreover, as I read various publications' take on the potential of Hydrogen Power's future, I kept coming across a saying, "Clean Hydrogen power is at least twenty years in the future, and always will be" (sorry mods, I can't recall a link, but it'd be easy to find if required). When I see that many science writers advocating caution and/or skepticism, I take them at their word.

Space-based solar power beamed to earth, on the other hand, seems to be accepted by many scientists and it includes practical economic benefits to Humanity which may provide the political cover needed for politicians to actually approve it.

What is spaced-based solar power generation and how does it work? There are a few different methods or techniques.


(Graphic from Google via "Impact Lab". Google: sci fi space-based power generation and robots, look at images)

"The space-based solar power system involves a solar power satellite – an enormous spacecraft equipped with solar panels. These panels generate electricity, which is then wirelessly transmitted to Earth through high-frequency radio waves. A ground antenna, called a rectenna, is used to convert the radio waves into electricity, which is then delivered to the power grid." (link "theconversation" below)

Yes, it does sound a bit 'Science-Fictiony' (to coin a term), but we already have the knowledge to do this on a small scale. And, yes, due to costs it'll likely need governments to continue playing a role for the immediate future until such a time that the Private sector could take over, akin to the early days of the Air Travel industry and/or International Telecoms.




The links provided above show how such a thing could be done, but there are practical matters like economics that need to be addressed in order to get things off the ground. The 'Universe Today' article (link below) looks at the economics of Space-Based Solar Power for remote mining on Earth, and is the first practical look at how it might work that I have seen. Yup, still too expensive at the moment, but as technology progresses, new discoveries occur and the price of inaction on Climate Change rises, it is hard to imagine that it won't be economically viable in the next years


Finally, Sci-Fi writers have been using space-based solar power as a staple in their stories for many years, and they have been remarkably prescient; this alone is enough for me to think that we will see it in the next few decades. I think it'd be a fair statement that we will see this in our lifetimes; perhaps one of these days we will all lie on our backs, look up at the stars and see 'power beams' which, safely and cleanly, allow our modern conveniences.



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On 12/19/2022 at 3:57 PM, Shade_Wilder said:

perhaps one of these days we will all lie on our backs, look up at the stars and see 'power beams' which, safely and cleanly, allow our modern conveniences.

Can they be pointed at the bad guys zap 'em, in event of war?  

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Solar farms on earth are ineffectual, wind turbines are overpriced and rely on government subsidy to survive - without taking over from baseload power stations - and now some SF author wants to spend billions on a great big solar panel in the sky? Sure... why not? It's only (your) money.

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