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Space Solar Power - An Earth to Orbit Challenge

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"Benefits to the terrestrial energy sector include: all-electric and hybrid cars (batteries, fuel cells, etc.), grid-scale energy storage systems (batteries, electrolyzers, fuel cells, flywheels, PMAD, etc.), smart grid (PMAD, analytical tools), terrestrial solar power systems (high efficiency solar cells, advanced arrays, PV calibration, solar concentrators..."


  • Space-Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security, Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study, Report to the Director, National Security Space Office, Interim Assessment, Release 0.1, 10 October 2007 (download, 3.6MB .pdf)

"Preventing resource conflicts in the face of increasing global populations and demands in the 21st century is a high priority for the Department of Defense. All solution options to these challenges should be explored, including opportunities from space.

In March 2007, the National Security Space Office’s Advanced Concepts Office presented the idea of space-based solar power (SBSP) as a potential grand opportunity to address not only energy security, but environmental, economic, intellectual, and space security as well. First proposed in the late 1960’s, the concept was last explored in the NASA’s 1997 "Fresh Look" Study. In the decade since this last study, advances in technology and new challenges to security have warranted a current exploration of the strategic implications of SBSP. For these reasons, my office sponsored a no-cost Phase 0 Architecture Feasibility Study of SBSP during the Spring and Summer of 2007."



  • FINAL REPORT to the NASA Space Solar Power Exploratory Research and Technology (SERT) Program - "Spaceport Concept and Technology Roadmapping" Investment Steps to Routine, Low Cost Spaceport Systems, Prepared by the Vision Spaceport Partnership, November 2000.
  • "Large-scale SSP is a very complex integrated system of systems that requires numerous significant advances in current technology and capabilities
  • A technology roadmap has been developed that lays out potential paths for achieving all needed advances - albeit over several decades
  • Ongoing and recent technology advances have narrowed many of the technology gaps, but major technical, regulatory and conceptual hurdles continue to exist
  • This NASA-funded SSP activity has made significant contributions to narrowing the technology gap (e.g. a three-fold reduction in mass at the solar array level over current state-of-the-art)
  • An incremental and evolutionary approach to developing needed technologies and systems has been defined, with significant and broadly applicable advances with each increment
  • The technologies and systems needed for SPS have highly leveraged applicability to needs in space science, robotic and human exploration, and the development of space
  • The decades-long time frame for SPS technology development is consistent with the time frame during which new space transportation systems, commercial space markets, etc. could advance
  • Power relay concepts appear technical viable using space solar power technologies, but may depend upon higher frequency power beaming
  • The question of ultimate large-scale solar power satellite economic viability remains open."
  • 1999


    Trends & Analysis

    Numerous graphs on the subject of energy, resources, supply, demand and technology often attempt to connect the many complex factors involved when thinking about where our energy picture stands, where it might go, and what does it all means. This spot will be dedicated to graphs of such data driven views.

    Figure 1. Extrapolating Possible Directions in Global Power Demand (or Consumption) vs. CO2 Levels

    Figure 2. Extrapolating Possible Directions in Global Energy Demand (or Consumption) over Time



    Website Contact: Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center

    In the News [Solar Power/Google News] [Solar Daily]

    "SolarReserve has announced that it has received its final Certificates of Environmental Compatibility (CEC) by unanimous decision (5-0) from the Arizona Corporation Commission for its 150 megawatt (MW) Crossroads Solar Energy Project."

    • 10/20/2009 - Two scientists offer a radical plan to achieve 100 percent clean energy in 20 years. By Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi

    Text version at:

    and the "flypmedia" version at:

    "Over the next four years, the project will focus on developing technology that will send the electricity generated by the orbiting solar panels back to Earth in the form of microwaves."

    "Because the U.S. has good resources, renewable energy from wind, solar, and geothermal could provide an additional 500 terawatt-hours per year by 2020 and 1,100 terawatt-hours per year by 2035. Total U.S. electricity consumption is now about 4,000 terawatt-hours per year."

    "...the project took a step forward last week when a consortium of German businesses announced plans to pursue financing and otherwise hammer out details for Desertec, which is expected to cost about €400 billion, or $555 billion."

    "Startups like KiteGen, Sky Windpower, Magenn, and Makani (Google’s secretive fundee) have come into the space over the last several years, and they seem to be working on much shorter timelines."

    World Crude Oil Production, Table (EIA), peak of 73.69 Million Barrels per Day in 2009.

    "...the U.S. Geological Survey completed an extensive analysis of Wyoming's Gillette coal field, the nation's largest and most productive, and determined that less than 6% of the coal in its biggest beds could be mined profitably, even at prices higher than today's."