Zachary Manchester of Carnegie Mellon University has received a phase 1 NASA NIAC grant and will study how to create mechanical metamaterials to design lightweight deployable structures with unprecedented expansion ratios of 150x or more. A structure could be launched inside a single Falcon Heavy rocket fairing and then be deployed autonomously to a final size of a kilometer or more on orbit without requiring complex on-orbit assembly or fabrication.
If the material had ultrathin solar power and could still fit in a Falcon Heavy (64 tons nonreusable rocket to low earth orbit) and deploy to one square kilometer that was 25% efficient at converting sunlight to power it would produce 340 megawatts of power (1360 watts X 1 million square meters X 25%).
A fleet of one hundred fully reusable SpaceX Super Heavy Starship flying once a day to orbit could deploy 60000 times as much as one non-reusable Falcon Heavy. Only using this to deploy space-based solar power would be over 20 terawatt per year.
If this was cut by ten times for beaming equipment and positioning systems it would still be over 10 terawatt per year of space based solar over five years.
SOURCES – AFRL, Carnegie Mellon, NASA, NIAC
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
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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