SSP Workshop Scenario Overview

How might a  Space Solar Power System (SSPS) ever be built?

Would electric power companies build them? In most states and countries electric power companies still operate in an environment and, more importantly, a mind set, of regulated monopoly. That is changing, slowly, but part of what that now (1998) means is that they are constrained by law from investing what are often considered public funds in power generation schemes which are imprudent. (They have also occasionally been required to invest in power generation schemes that were deemed in the public interest at the time, but have since fallen into disfavor,  such as nuclear power. Nuclear power became favored during the Oil Crisis of the 70's and our current crop of nuclear plants resulted from that era.  Should an oil crisis occur again, what would our options be?)

Since SSP has not been PROVEN to be a safe financial investment, (since no one today knows how to build an SSPS at competitive cost) no one will build one - neither large aerospace companies nor electric power companies have the vast reservoirs of risk capital necessary to even consider such a huge undertaking.  SSPS must be much better understood. They must be studied again in depth.  Vast oceans of technology have been developed since the ancient "reference system" was designed in 1977 -1980 by DOE, NASA, Boeing, and Rockwell.  That means government sponsored and supported studies directed toward understanding the elegant but complex high technology problem which is SSP.

Equally important, the global electric power market has matured greatly since 1980. Many countries from Brazil to China that did not then have the electric power grid infrastructure to handle a 5 GW rectenna downlink could now plan to do that. The physics and economics of antennas makes beaming LARGE power s  The global electric power market is now ready and eager for clean competitively priced electric power. Just as America has several international partners on the ISS, we will probably have international partners that will want to join us in studying and eventually building an SSPS. A frequently used business analogy is to COMSAT, which was chartered as a private company, became part of the international satellite company Intelsat, and is now in the throes of transforming itself again into a truly competitive communications satellite company. Another useful model is the development of the commercial airline industry, which was subsidized for many years in it's infancy.

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The SSP development event study scenario below recognizes the highly favorable hydrogen (water & other volatiles) survey by NASA's Lunar Prospector  now surveying the moon and correspondingly strong support from the American public and their elected representatives for lunar base activities.  (NASA Ames has a great website at that shows live images from Lunar Prospector. It is not assumed that a lunar manufacturing settlement will be necessary or even the lowest cost path for building a Space Solar Power System. That may be true, but remains to be shown.  We hope you read these ideas and consider yourself what steps and policies should be taken to explore the high frontier and return some of its limitless fruits and benefits, such as clean electric power, to earth.

2002 -  A small  (2% scale)  100 MWe GSO demonstration SPS approved for immediate design start. Joint agencies funding results in a cooperative contract with seven competing teams of commercial communications satellite operators and wireless power transmission system researchers using several power transfer technologies.  Bidding design process initiated for GSO site selection. Updated lunar regolith simulant pilot plant is approved for start, based on Lunar Prospector data and preliminary potential site selection.

2003 - Lunar site selection survey continues with mapping and follow-up telerobotic surveys. East Asian island nation signs contract to share its aging communications satellite's orbital location with the demonstration SPS. Simultaneously an international offshore rectenna downlink demonstration site design and construction planning is initiated. The satellite "host" will receive  supplemental power from the SPS system and become part of the SPS power communications / control center. Six other planned large communications relay satellites contract to receive power and station keeping services, greatly extending their expected service life.  BMDO initiates SPS system defense planning to intercept objects greater than 0.1 meter before they would impact GSO demonstration site or future satellites.

2004 - Lunar settlement biological recyclables demonstration laboratory receives approval for design and construction start.  This is colocated with the lunar settlement structural construction system competition which is simultaneously declared open for bids.  Competing photovoltaic researchers declare 7 contract winners in PV competition for SPS and ground broken for several new production facilities. All winners will produce at least 1 Mwatt of collectors for use on the SPS.

2005 - 100 MWe GSO demonstration operational. FIRST POWER DOWNLINK
TO EARTH.  Superconducting power cable redesigned to avoid heat sink radiation. Interaction of the power beam with the earth's magnetosheath plasma (filamentation) at solar maximum is studied, enabling improved beam control by future satellites and better understanding of solar wind and flare phenomena . Telerobotic lunar camp site selection concludes. One month after GSO testbed demonstration project complete it experiences a 1 meter meteorite hit with only a 2 % power reduction!! All project demonstration goals complete.  BMDO is approved to begin constructing an asteroid protection system, with a capture option.
Construction begun on 80 MWe lunar SPS to provide baseload power for the coming lunar base settlement.

2006 -  Construction is complete. 12 different PV materials tested at orbital site. Field modification of superconducting cables initiated via telerobotics. Full power achieved.

2007 -  100 MWe GSO demonstration site surpasses all project demonstration goals. Breaker system redesigned. Rectenna/antenna redesigned. Second generation PV materials testing planned with actual lunar sample (robotic returns) to be processed. Public acceptance at downlink site is excellent. Fishing production is doubled in the region within 10 Km of downlink site. Fishermen under the grid experience microwave emissions a factor of ten below expected levels. Rectenna site weathers a direct hit by major typhoon with zero damage, and continues operation at not more than 11.8% reduced power (double the previous worst rain storm). The downlink site undergoes redesign and is approved for desert/greenhouse and other locations, including a prospective new small city "umbrella" design. Approval is received to increase the size and power of the demo SPS to 300 MWe. by 2007 with 99% telerobotic assembly.  Six additional 10 MWe Solar Power Satellites are signed to be built under full cost recovery contracts with communications providers.

2008 - Approval for lunar campsite selection received. Planning initiated for site  selection process with telerobotic survey of 18 preliminary sites.  Lunar surface to GSO to LEO transportation system approved. Lunar site selection team approves four final sample return missions.  Final design approval received for comprehensive lunar settlement recycling system (food/ water/ air/ agriculture/ composting). Final design approval received  for comprehensive lunar settlement design and primarily telerobotic construction.

2009 - Final intensive telerobotic survey group initiates lunar encampment construction start.  Trans Galactic Power  and  SPS International are incorporated with first sale of public stock. Negotiation over where the lines of ownership are drawn takes 18 months. First return to the moon by humans since 1969 with initial lunar encampment of 24 members, expanded to 150 by late 2010.  Insitu regolith glass and glass/glass composite integrated mining and manufacturing system achieves full output. The O'Neill lunar mass accelerator achieves full production early in the year, lifting components to GSO for assembly and telerobotic mating with superconducting cables and other earth supplied assemblies.

2011 - First full 10 GWe SPS complete at original GSO orbital site and operational to two separate 5 GW downlink sites. Stock in SPS company jumps 400% within 6 months.  Delivered GWe  (downlinked to rectenna sites) by year:

New GWe delivered that year