Feasability of Deploying Over 10 Terawatts of Space Based Solar

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%).

The US Air Force and Caltech are working on separate projects for space-based solar power.

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

18 thoughts on “Feasability of Deploying Over 10 Terawatts of Space Based Solar”

  1. these are random quotes from the Space Solar/power beaming innocent:

    President Biden is expected to commit to reducing carbon emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.

    for President Biden’s climate plan to succeed, the United States is
    going to have to move a lot more electricity across much greater

    Biden’s climate goals are audacious and complex, with no single technology an obvious panacea.

  2. Ooh Hoo – think of the Bitcoin Miners bonanza!
    What is it now? – double-digit percent of China energy production goes into the Bitcoin mines…

  3. You don’t need solar cells, or microwave transmitters in orbit, just mirrors! It’s about 5% of the mass of your grandfather’s SBSP system! Just beam extra sunlight down to existing solar farms already built on earth . Dr. Lewis Fraas came up with this idea more than a decade ago. Existing solar farms are in 95% cloudless areas. Space Mirrors could double World Solar Power Output. Doubling Solar Power output would take Solar from 2% to 4% world power output total. That extra power will easily be absorbed by increasing the Electric Vehicle fleet.

  4. "We do feel that our biggest contribution to reducing our carbon footprint is, of course, not having children," she says.  -ideas matter

  5. Gigawatts of directed electricity from space would change a lot of things.

    For example, for abroad military deployments. They could set camp in some third world wasteland, plant some basic collectors and get full power since day 0. Yeah, it's the same old excuse of military interest, but it's a change on capabilities.

    Same for emergency response teams locally or abroad, but those cases are rarer.

    It would also allow easier settlement of higher latitudes or nastier climates, with immediate energy availability in places like McMurdo.

    More of it can make us eventually independent of nukes without impoverishing ourselves.

    The key point is making it abundant and cheap enough to make it competitive with alternatives on the ground, despite the transmission losses. And things launched to space to be big and plentiful can have the advantage of economies of scale, eventually.

    But a few demonstrators showing the concept at work would be good, for now.

  6. I think you misunderstand the current electric power system. Large electricity generating stations rarely are put in large cities. They usually are in rural areas, between the small towns in those areas. The existing grid technology can carry the power several hundreds of miles to the places where the power is needed. No need to put the collector of the satellite power out at sea or in a far off wilderness. No superconducting wires or other non-existing tech is needed on the ground.

  7. The cells are so cheap nowadays that the Earth structure/land to hold them, if not an existing roof, is more than the sats would be. Sats also provide the delivery and load balancing, and have no intermittency problem. Doing sats opens Space big time, the reason O'Neill starts with them, economically.

  8. The obvious and constant question is how much of this launch before it is easier and cheaper to follow O'Neill plans? "A fleet of one hundred fully reusable SpaceX Super Heavy Starship flying once a day to orbit" could build factories and plant mass drivers on the Moon, launch WorkerBees, etc. The only question is whether we can see the obvious: O'Neill is correct!


  9. Seems someone else has also been playing Dyson Sphere Program, that crazy simulation game where you attempt to industrialize entire star systems so you can build a Dyson sphere for harvesting power.

  10. We only need enough space solar power to provide some based load power at night. And it only makes sense if it is cheaper than batteries.

  11. The receiving antenna was 10 km in diameter. But it could be placed anywhere. It is transparent to sunlight so you could place it on top of a forest, or a field, or a lake.

  12. Certainly we could get 10TW of space-based solar power. It should be a small matter for the current rocket industry to get these platforms into orbit, most likely geostationary.
    The issue is transmitting the energy back to Earth. The current space economy can't use that much energy.
    They keep saying microwave is the way, but I could see a lot of NIMBY groups complaining about how dangerous microwaves are. We would need some dedicated remote collectors to accept the energy input. You couldn't place one in downtown Manhattan for instance.
    This means we'll also need to work on making robust, high-efficiency transmission lines. Put the microwave collector out at sea or in the middle of a wilderness, and pump all that leccy to the Big City with some next-gen high voltage wires.

    This would be a really good time for someone to perfect those room-temp superconducting wires they were bragging about 30 years ago. Remember how we were so close to a breakthrough that we should have them by "next year"?

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