Space Based Solar Power

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by publiusr, Mar 14, 2015.

  1. lpetrich

    lpetrich Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm not sure what you have in mind, but I suspect that both controlled nuclear fusion and space-based solar-power systems will become economically preempted by Earth-based renewable systems long before they become practical.

    Cleantech News — Solar, Wind, EV News (#1 Source) | CleanTechnica -- an enthusiast site, but it's revealing what they discuss and don't discuss. I've seen a lot of discussions of the economics of wind and solar electric generation (it's getting competitive with fossil-fuel generation), also improved batteries and other storage systems, and also electric cars. But I've seen very little on synfuels, despite it being necessary for applications like aviation.
     
  2. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I believe in political solutions. The close link between rockets and revolution captured the imagination of many--beyond what economics--that most dismal of sciences--would call for.

    Elon Musk has done a lot--but I want to Rickover a larger space footprint into being. Bean counters to me are simply the worst:
    http://www.core77.com/posts/20016/Book-Review-Car-Guys-vs-Bean-Counters

    I suspect that both controlled nuclear fusion and space-based solar-power systems will become economically preempted by Earth-based renewable systems long before they become practical.

    As you have described, solar costs are coming down, and that can easily be true for systems that have no darkness--or danger of bird strikes. In my earlier posts on this thread, I describe why space based solar enables other space tech growth--in a way ground based systems cannot. Gground based solar farms will compete with funding for, say, beamed energy propulsion--and that may lead to budget fights.

    Our current energy policy has been one where big oil reigns, and big aerospace/defense firms fight wars to enable the former to have profits. I would suggest to you that--if our military cost were factored in--and the other prices we have to pay for continued use of oil--that THAT isn't really profitable to humanity either.

    A lot of folks here like Dune, Game of Thrones, etc.

    If a loner goes up against two great houses, he has no chance (Trump being the Harkonnen who got away).
    But if one can pit one house against another--one can have a chance to do great things.

    Ground-Based outfits will never have the muscle of big aerospace firms behind it. That's the key. SPSS will tempt those who want more LV services--and (as you know) the ICBM program was the only good thing that came out of the Cold War. So I would suggest that the somewhat more involved process actually will have greater support exactly because it is harder.

    The newspacer thinks gov't is just a problem. I see it as opportunity. One of my greatest worries is that spaceflight may be dreadfully hurt if drones, blimps, some other form of non-comsat communication comes along. A lot of people hate space-based solutions for anything--think ISS a waste--all that. That is wrong-headed thinking as far as I'm concerned.

    I've also given technical reasons to support SPSS--not just keeping space dreams alive.

    Case in point: https://room.eu.com/article/defending-earth-against-cosmic-hazards

    The assumption is often made that there is no defense against a truly violent storm. But it has been suggested that some sort of cosmic protective engineering might be possible. A deployable magnetic system at the L-1 Lagrangian point coupled with a solar power satellite system might be able to provide a type of shielding that could also transmit solar energy back to Earth 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

    Now show me a ground-based anything that can do that.

    I think of myself as a latter-day Themistocles/Billy Mitchell hybrid. They also had a tough road ahead of them.
     
  3. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Political solutions only solve political problems, which space exploration and energy production are not.

    Flying to the moon was a POLITICAL solution to the Soviet challenge of the space race; notice that as soon as that problem was solved, the entire program was shelved, its hardware and tooling dismantled. Apollo was never meant to open up the universe for human exploration, it was meant to beat the Russians to the moon.

    If you're mostly interested in making politicians happy and looking good in the newspaper, then yes, go on with your political solutions. It's only tax money, nobody REALLY cares how much of it goes to waste.

    You didn't "describe" anything at all. You made some unsourced, wishful-thinking claims about how "mass production" of SLS would bring costs down. You didn't explain how or why and didn't address the fact that the space shuttle program still ran close to half a million bucks per launch even when they were launching 5 times a year.

    No they won't. They're an entirely separate industry with an entirely separate funding stream. Even assuming that ground-based solar needs "funding" in that way, it's going to be profitable and self-sustaining LONG before space-based solar ever gets off the ground (literally and figuratively)

    Which is why Elon Musk filed a lawsuit against the government citing unfair practices in the competition for military contracts. He's the Paul Atreides character, cornering a valuable commodity -- cheap access to space -- and carving out a business empire of his own. He can out-compete ULA and provide superior services, which forces the government (emperor?) to BUY his services rather than try to provide them.

    In that environment it makes no sense to try and fellate congress into accidentally doing something beneficent for space exploration very once in a while. We have an entire industry that has always been working towards that goal, so now the game is about empowering the space flight industry to pursue manned space exploration for its own sake, rather than simply provide those services to government/military contract fulfillment.

    I'll remind you again that every spacecraft ever made in the United States was manufactured by private industry -- aerospace contractors and such. They were able to do it because they were paid obscene amounts of money by the government to develop and build that technology; the costs were so high and the return on investment so low that they never could have even attempted it without the government underwriting everything.

    So what if the Apollo program was able to produce a profit in its own right? What if they found a way to capitalize on the samples and data brought back from Apollo reliably enough to cover the costs of the program in its entirety? In that case, they would no longer be slaves to the political whims of the government or chained to the fickle tides of public opinion. They could launch more rockets because they WANT to launch more rockets; they wouldn't need funding, only permission.

    The key to what? Big aerospace has NO INTEREST in orbital solar. None at all. They know it's a dead idea with no chance of ever being profitable. So how exactly are you planning to convince Lockheed, ULA, SpaceX and Raytheon to invest tens of billions of dollars in orbital solar technology that all math and logic says will never actually pay off?

    The most you can do is trick the government into ORDERING them to do it for some asinine reason or another. And as soon as someone in the government changes their mind, or as soon as there's another war, or as soon as the newspapers stop paying attention, they yank the funding and transfer it to something else.

    Political solutions only solve political problems.

    And I've given you the MATH that shows orbital solar is not and will never be profitable OR competitive with ground-based solar, even with technology ten times as advanced as what we have now.

    Should you somehow SUCCEED in pushing the U.S. government to waste its money on this program, everybody who ISN'T a space enthusiast will be able to rightly point out what a massive waste if time and money this is and that every dollar spent on supporting space based solar power would be better spent on LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE. And they would be 100% right, in which case your only fallback position would be "But... but... but... but... SPACE!"
     
  4. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    At least we can agree on that. No fan of ULA here.


    No, if we get a second source of power--the infrastructure can be adapted into solar electric craft:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2016/04/magnetoplasmadynamic-thrusters-can-have.html

    The author of the spacereview articles I linked to also liked the idea of space nuclear reactors as well.

    The idea of getting NASA out of the rocket building business-and all the newspace religion--that I have no use for. They look at a smart phone and see only capitalism. I see ICBM history and the ARPANET. Just a difference of politics Crazy Eddie. And I don't think Elon would turn his nose at SPS payloads.

    On the other hand--if he gets into his on comsat business--some of his paying clients may look for other rides.

    You don't privatize any branch of the service. You have capability no matter what disaster falls to what company--the program goes on despie the success or failure of any one company. So the political solution provides more stability. SLS enjoys the same protection F-35 enjoys. VLJ? No protection at all.

    Besides, greens who want solar power from space may find friends in Red States that are also space states. Ground based systems won't have this cover.

    Right now, Sen Shelby is powerful. Jeff Sessions and Buzz Aldrin are said to be advising Trump. Clinton may support Space Solar power--and without that green angle--she may be hostile to NASA. If NASA is hurt--that will not help Elon Musk.

    I'm looking at the long game here, and I don't think you yet really see where I am coming from.

    Even suborbital types may face a hazard:
    http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-05/space-tourism-experiment-geo-engineering
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19626-space-tourism-could-have-big-impact-on-climate/

    There are those who think we just need to cut off our opposable thumbs, and shoot ourselves in the kneecaps to lose our upright and bipedal stance. Some may view spaceflight as a male and penetrative act.

    Therefore--politically--I want standing armies--I want space in some respects to have a big voting block that is hard to topple. Space advocates who say they don't need NASA or gov't--may still be hobbled by regulations even if all space were privatized and NASA centers closed. A "cheaper" path with space advocates hosile to any gov't may end up in a bad place--with few friends.

    Support SPSS--and some potential enemies to space--can become friends. The Long Game--Crazy Eddie.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016
  5. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    You just don't get it. No one wants NASA shut down. We just want NASA to stop using the same old cost structure in procurement. They've proven that there is a better way with CCDEV, Let the companies do what they do best and make use of it. SLS is old school pork spending in the worst possible way for NASA. If they had just bid out a set of requirements and setup a CCDEV type of competition they would probably have a heavy lifter already flying now for half the money outlay.
     
  6. Dryson

    Dryson Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Would Space Based Solar Power be efficient to support colonies as far out as Pluto or would harvesting methane gas from nearby planets be more efficient?

    Is there a distance from the sun at which solar power is no longer considered a sufficient form of energy production?
     
  7. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    "I'll remind you again that every spacecraft ever made in the United States was manufactured by private industry -- aerospace contractors and such" Crazy Eddie's own quote.

    Heavy Lift costs what it costs. SLS will save on payload complexity--and reduce costs that way.

    You had a group of outsiders look at an alternative to ARES V--and the result was DIRECT--a lot like SLS.

    Besides--one could just as easily argue that there are no payloads for BFR either. Neil de Grasse Tyson doen't trust the newSpacers--and I agree with him. The big aerospace firms didn't want to build HLLVs either--because they would have made more money selling medium lift to the taxpayer. Engineer Griffin knew this--and fought them. I wish you would understand that.

    The thing is Sojourner, is that you are actually making the same argument ULA made here:

    “Heavy lift will never be a commodity until there’s a fundamentally different way of going to space,” he added.
    SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell disagreed. “If we say we can’t do it, so we won’t do it, I think that’s a mistake,”

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2971/1

    The problem is one of vision. BFR isn't likely to be all that cheap either. But that isn't stopping Musk. His only mistake was in building too small if anything.

    Musk learned well from Mike Griffin--the same Mike Griffin all the new spacers hated so much. If Huxley was Darwin's bulldog--I was Griffin's Pit Bull.

    I'm sure ULA would have agreed with you. And letting contractors dictate terms--that's a mistake. I remember an Aviation-Week article some time back where folks in the Army were tired of contractors telling the Army what it needed. They didn't want a new build chopper--they wanted to foist whatever was profitable for them on the DoD.

    This is why I liked Mike Griffin and his arsenal approach of doing as much in-house--and keeping contractors on the short leash.

    Remember, Mike was the one with Musk as they were both rebuffed by the Russians. Musk himself uses arsenal methodology--the only lost of one of his Falcons in flight came from a sub-contractor's strut. In-house is where it's at. Vertical integration is making a comeback over horizontal integration. Delta bought it's own fuel refinery so it can have JP at cost.

    But SLS isn't Musks enemy--ULA is. The EELV lobby wanted ARES V killed--even though ULA's own Josh Hopkins expressed doubts about depots that ULA was trying to foist on NASA. THAT"S why Gov't has to be in charge--to keep the suits on the short-leash. Don't trust them. After Ares I and V were killed and you had a true private space player--then ULA used the same in-house argument about having independant capability. It is an argument I agree with--but not from them. The ULA execs did not have clean hands. We had two EELVs so that--if something happened to one company--we could use the other. ULA has both EELVs now--so much for that plan.

    I want not one but at least two HLLVs: SLS--and--if it happens--BFR.

    As it stands now, SLS and Falcon are big winners--and ULA? Not so much. They have--as I have shown from their CEO's OWN QUOTE, no faith in their own product.

    This negativism from folks who purport to be space advocates. THAT'S your problem. Some in our military would have been perfectly happy to shoot off the last of Paperclips acquired V-2 rockets into the desert, shake the dust off their hands--and say--that's that. You have to have vision to go beyond what folks "need." Medaris of the ABMA--he made sure Saturn I had a good test stand for it--beyond what was needed for the Jupiter IRBM alone.

    I can see no greater calling for space than the promise of clean energy that also happens to forward the infrastructure of other similar space exploration projects that also need large surface area. Synergy. Big Science holds the answers now--not the crank in his garage. Take ITER and NIF. Even if neither works--it is an example of physicists staying in the game--and being employed--a tax-funded constituency dedicated to change--not the old guard dedicated to profits and stasis. You have to keep pitching--because the old guard, ULA, Big Oil, etc. You know THEY won't quit.

    I remember reading about very large collectors to allow plants in Pluto's orbit--these bubble like deals with its own bio-sphere-to grow. Jupiter is about as far out as existing solar will go--as in the JUNO mission to Jupiter. Now an end of life SPS could be used to take heavy payloads from LEO and move them higher. And a large enough SPSS could sail outward a great deal farther than typical solar powered craft. But some kind of nuclear augmentation is still needed eventually.

    There was something called PROFAC that was a small dense reactor to harvest gases from planets. You want atomic power in this case. Put anything with big solar panels too low--and that same gas will drag you down.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
  8. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    I give up. You're arguing "No, apples are bad because oranges". SLS is pork. If it had been bid out like CCDEV it would be flying now and cheaper. Meaning NASA could do more things with the money saved, but hey, don't let basic economics get in your way. Enjoy your power point missions to no where because that's all NASA is capable of these days.
     
  9. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    And you know that HOW exactly? I think the folks behind SLS know exactly what they are doing.

    Aerojet/Rocketdyne--who will build SLS engines--are also looking at solar power as well--for non chemical drives in this case:
    https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2016/04/aerojet-rocketdyne-nasas-advanced-sep-system-development/

    If there were anything to the EM stuff--it still needs power as well--and that means these larger solar panels--that give more power as they grown in size.

    I really don't want to be petty and ugly--but you didn't know that kerosene wasn't a hypergolic like UDMH and such. I get a lot wrong too. But not this.

    How about we give the folks behind SLS the same respect the Saturn engineers got--before folks on the interwebs tried to tell them how to do their jobs.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
  10. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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    What? When did I ever claim that kerosene was a hypergolic?

    And it's not about the "engineers" it's about the bureaucracy they are mired in.
     
  11. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Here is a write up--getting off topic a bit--since it looks like THE STICK may make a return after all

    http://www.americaspace.com/?p=93076

    4 billion per launch- quit making stuff up. Nobody believes the numbers the NewSpace sycophants are throwing up. B.S.
    The reality is that for what the space station to nowhere and Mars development costs every year we can go back to the Moon and establish a permanent human presence Beyond Earth Orbit.
    Going direct to the Moon with the Super Heavy Lift SLS dumps the NewSpace LEO business plan in the trashcan. This makes the SLS the number one enemy of the NewSpace movement and that is why these absurd numbers are endlessly quoted as “fact.”

    Throwing the B.S. flag on the death-to-SLS hype.

    Maybe not just any opinion...take it for what you will. I'm not a moon-first myself, and have no problem with Mars development or ISS. I see larger structures in space and the expertise that goes with it valuable in its own right. But space advocates are known for our in-fighting.

    Now the Air Farce is whining http://spacenews.com/letter-former-eelv-manager-takes-issue-with-lexingtons-air-force-launch-op-ed/

    http://www.trekbbs.com/threads/spac...h-to-space-station.172681/page-7#post-6440368

    Things could be worse
    http://nasawatch.com/archives/2016/04/putin-wants-to.html
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
  12. sojourner

    sojourner Admiral Admiral

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  13. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Then why won't we just BUILD a solar-electric craft?

    There's no reason to do this bait-and-switch bullshit to accomplish that. If you could convince congress to invest in a useless project like orbital solar, you could just as easily convince them to invest in a Nautilus-X or a commercial space station. Orbital solar isn't any more attractive than any of those other endeavors except that it has the virtue of being way more expensive and thus way harder to justify economically.

    Which, again, would entirely defeat the purpose of orbital solar since nuclear reactors ON THE GROUND are already a thing.

    Which are really good examples, considering that DARPA no longer develops user-end apps for ecommerce and that the U.S. government is no longer the largest provider of internet services to users. Basically you're looking at the past and I'm looking at the future.

    The service is ALREADY privatized and always has been. It's not a question of whether or not to privatize services, it's a question of whether or not the government should remain the ONLY recipient of those services. If you want space exploration to expand, it shouldn't be.

    Actually the political solutions to America's spaceflight priorities are and have always been INHERENTLY unstable, and literally EVERY manned space program America has ever developed has fallen victim to that instability. At best they stagnate and fall into disrepair; at worst, they get canceled before they even begin.

    The smaller the project and the more private funding it employs, the more stable it becomes. This is why exploration probes and the satellite industry have VASTLY outpaced their development compared to manned spaceflight, which so far is still a big-ticket item with a huge political price tag involved. Even YOU must recognize that if Orbcom or Telestar had any compelling reason to develop manned spacecraft, they would have been positioned to service Skylab in the 1970s just as Elon Musk is positioned to service the ISS now.

    If the goal is for manned spaceflight to become cheap and routine, then it's best to employ a model that has actually been proven to succeed in that pursuit. Which means we need to follow the model of the telecom industry, which began from -- and finally outgrew -- government assistance.

    And the F-35 is program is a FUCKING DISASTER because of it. Why would you wish to visit that kind of clusterfuck on manned space exploration?

    And when he is not -- if he looses an election, if he gets caught molesting little boys or if his party gets dickpunched in an electoral upset -- the entire program gets gutted by his successor.

    Compare with the telecom industry, whose business case is immune to political disruptions. There THOUSANDS of communication satellites in orbit right now; less than a fraction of them got there on the space shuttle.

    You're looking at begging politicians to kick some government money at a project they know to be useless for political expedience. Aside from the fact that you are not actually a politician -- or even a lobbyist for that matter -- and have NO IDEA how to actually do that, there's the historical fact that commercial spaceflight already provides the capabilities you're looking for and doesn't rely on political favors for its very survival.

    At a time when SLS is still at least two years from its first flight, there is a bigelow inflatable module attached to the ISS right now and it was a SpaceX craft that put it there. That leaves you still pushing hypothetical solutions while a completely non-hypothetical solution is already reaping success.

    Orbital solar isn't the "long game" to anything. You're basically saying "You know who likes wasting money? Politicians! You know what space program wastes a whole lot of money? Orbital solar! Let's get politicians to waste money on orbital solar!"
     
  14. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Until it costs less, in which case more people can use HLVs for their own projects.

    SLS isn't designed to cost less, it's designed to cost as much as the contractors want it to. That is its sole reason to exist.

    The best way to develop HLVs is to create a market for them. Which means NASA doesn't need to be developing rockets, it needs to be developing heavier payloads and then funding research and development efforts of aerospace companies to develop bigger rockets to carry them. At the moment, the market doesn't actually support anything much bigger than Ariane-V; even the James Webb telescope isn't actually heavy enough to require SLS.

    That's because SLS is irrelevant. It is a pork project that is not actually intended to provide spaceflight capability. NASA doesn't even think it's a viable alternative to the ULA or SpaceX; as far as they're concerned, SLS is going to be used strictly for big-ticket, deep space, high-profile missions to the moon and beyond.

    Converting SLS for use as a super-heavy-satellite booster just isn't going to happen; adapting it for use in a ridiculous idea like orbital solar is dead on arrival. In the mean time, the business case for HLVs remains slim to non-existent and will remain so until industry has reason to NEED more payload capability.

    Orbital solar will not provide that. So find another calling. Preferably, one that anyone in the industry already wants to (and already IS) working to accomplish.
     
  15. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's going to be true for anything. They really are trying to shave down costs.
    In my opinion--I think ULA would be better off forgetting re-usability and just lower part count. I'd have Pyrios be Vulcan--bring back the F-1--make an even larger shroud--that sort of thing. SLS will have the largest diameter--and that is what the human spaceflight folks want

    There wasn't need for Falcon heavy to be so potent. BFR itself will come despite any financial use. Musk wants to go to Mars for its own sake. I think SPS will allow more rocket rides. Even if the program is cut off, we will have large defacto solar electric craft to use--even if fusion power comes along--and SPS launches gives more of a market to BFR--even if there were no SLS.
    My guess is that you are a libertarian who was left with a bad taste in your mouth by STS doing laps in LEO for decades. NASA looks to be headed in the right direction. My point is that there is always going to be gov't spending. Since it is coming anyway--make it work for you. Hell, if SLS is cancelled--Musk could pick up that big vertical weld tool for a song--and reduce BFR costs that way. Again--SLS isn't the real threat--EELVs are.

    There are other energy savings measures that may also find a space-use.

    They folks here are almost building the ramp we saw for the space ark from "When Worlds Collide"
    http://up-ship.com/blog/?p=32022

    Hmm.... Hey Lynx--why not diversify into rail? Just don't tell the venture vultures what you're really up to. ;)
    Space advocates with bigger visions may do well to find non-space projects that can also be pressed into service.
    I think there is still a bit of "the giggle factor" in space. So something respectable and noble all its own...

    Space entrepreneur: "We want to build a ramp for space launch"
    Venture Capitalist: "BWA-HA HA--get out!!"

    F'ing railway Nut: "We want to build energy storage for trains"
    CSX: "Sure--how much money do you want?"

    The piggyback approach doesn't just have to be for orbiters and payloads, you know.
    I guess we agree to disagree.

    No biggie. I only get steamed when I hear folks who want to kill MSFC off. I have friends there--and they do good work.

    (I'd like to keep this thread open for any later news on SPSS developments)

    The real problem
    http://cosmoquest.org/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=21438&d=1459711457
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2016
  16. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, it's going to be true for anything conceived as a pork-barrel project.

    In the REST of reality, a product is only as expensive as it needs to be to meet the requirements of the customer.

    Which is why SpaceX is in no hurry to finish developing it. It will give them capability they need to boost bigger payloads to GEO and beyond, but the DEMAND for that capability is amazingly small. In the case of the Heavy it's a case of "If you build it, they will come." Significantly, using the F9 boosters as components means that developing the system doesn't actually cost him anything, only implementing it.

    Musk may want a monte cristo for lunch, but he's not going to start up a whole production line at SpaceX just to make him a sandwich.

    Cool story, bro.

    It's not a giggle factor so much as the lack of a business case to DO anything in space. Venture capitalists want to make money, and so far the only thing in space that makes money is communication satellites.

    To use your own example:

    Space entrepreneur: "We want to build a ramp for space launch"
    Venture Capitalist: "BWA-HA HA--get out!!"

    COMPARE:
    Space entrepreneur: "We want to build a ramp that can put a satellite into geostationary orbit for $350,000."
    Venture Capitalist: "I'll take 70% of your company and naming rights on the ramp. Also, make me a sandwich."
     
  17. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Hear that Kevin O'Leary? Then you'd actually be Mr. Wonderful!
     
  18. lpetrich

    lpetrich Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    (quoting me)
    I don't think that nighttime or birds will add a factor of 500 to the cost of solar panels or wind turbines. For nighttime, one needs a factor of 2, and for a fixed orientation relative to the Earth, one needs another factor of 2. For a total factor of 4. Still over 100 too small to make much of a difference.
     
  19. Crazy Eddie

    Crazy Eddie Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ And there's also the fact that the RECEIVING stations present totally new hazards in their own right that also must be mitigated, plus losses due to collection and transmission inefficiencies. When it's all said and done, the only thing orbital solar can do better than ground based solar is cost a lot of money.
     
  20. publiusr

    publiusr Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The rectennas are more or less inert. No moviing parts to chop things up A bird flying over a rectenna is safer than it flying right through where the pure sunlight--they can actually be cooked there.

    The rectennas themselves may be dual use. If you must--have solar panels and windfarms that are also rectennas.

    I wonder if power can be harnessed from space without a lot of surface area.

    Power tethers that also store power in some way:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_magnetic_energy_storage

    To achieve commercially useful levels of storage, around 1 GW·h (3.6 TJ), a SMES installation would need a loop of around 100 miles (160 km). This is traditionally pictured as a circle, though in practice it could be more like a rounded rectangle. In either case it would require access to a significant amount of land to house the installation.

    Might space be a better place for something like this? Less need for a lot of payloads perhaps?
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2016