America needs to get serious about its spacefaring future. There needs to be an aggressive political, economic, and military strategy to help transition to space-based sustainable energy to replace fossil fuels.
A fully reusable SpaceX BFR will enable space-based solar power to be a clean energy source that is lower cost than coal.
In order to take advantage of this then hundreds of very large space solar power systems will need to be built and they will collectively generate more power than the dozens of Hoover Dams.
Gingrich and other have talked about the need to strengthen congressional support for developing dramatically improved American human space access. The Aerospace States Association needs to also push for the funding of the SpaceX BFR and construction of spaceports.
Space mining, space manufacturing, space power, and spacefaring logistics industries must all be established and scaled.
Space mining, space manufacturing and space power will reduce the cost of space construction by several times.
Keith Henson has some concerns that high volume flight rates for the SpaceX BFR could be a problem for the atmosphere if it was used for many thousands of flights to place massive amounts of space-based solar power to replace the usage of oil and other fossil fuel
Space based solar power satellites could replace fossil fuels. This would require both low cost launch and very high volume. The cost to GEO can’t go to over $200 per kilogram and the required traffic level is 15 million tons per year to LEO. (12 million to GEO.)
The main advantage of orbital space-based solar is you get 5 times as much sun as the best deserts and 15 times for places like Japan and the UK.
Giant Mirrors could boost solar farms on the ground and would not need power beaming
A constellation of 12 or more mirror satellites was proposed in a polar sun synchronous orbit at an altitude of approximately 1000 km above the earth. Each mirror satellite contains a multitude of 2 axis tracking mirror segments that collectively direct a sunbeam down at a target solar electric field site delivering a solar intensity to said terrestrial site equivalent to the normal daylight sun intensity extending the sunlight hours at said site by about 2 hours at dawn and 2 hours at dusk each day. Each mirror satellite in the constellation has a diameter of approximately 10 km and each terrestrial solar electric field site has a similar diameter and can produce approximately 5 GW per terrestrial site. Assuming that approximately 50 terrestrial solar electric field sites are evening distributed in sunny locations near cities around the world, this system can produce more affordable solar electric power during the day and further into the morning and evening hours. The typical operating hours for a terrestrial solar electric field site can thus be extended from approximately 8 hours per day by 50% to approximately 12 hours per day.
This constellation is potentially viable now because of the rapid growth in solar installations around the world. However, it is assumed here that a political decision will be required to implement this MiraSolar constellation concept and its actual implementation will then take approximately 10 years. By that time, we assume that there will be approximately fifty 5 GW ground solar electric generating locations distributed around the world with approximately 5 available in each 30 degree longitudinal increment such that 10 of the 12 mirror satellites will always be directing sunlight down to a station for 24 hours each day. If in fact there are 50 x 5 GW = 250 GW of solar ground stations available 10 years from now, that will still be only 250/1300 = 20% of the projected solar electric power production in 2022.
10 km diameter satellite mirror array shown with 1 km mirror elements to simplify the drawing. Smaller mirror elements can be used such as the 0.5 km mirror elements proposed for the ISC Space Power Satellite. Even smaller mirrors can be used with more mirror elements then required. The optimum mirror size would require more detailed design study.
Mirror element section with detail
Keith Henson Space Based Solar Plan
Henson uses a method of designing to cost. Design to cost is a management strategy and supporting methodologies to achieve an affordable product by treating target cost as an independent design parameter that needs to be achieved during the development of a product
Synthetic Oil from electricity. Hydrogen in a barrel of oil takes ~20 MWh. At two cents, $40 per bbl.
Capital $10 per bbl based on this plant below
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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