17 June 2009

PowerSat Files for Patent App for Space Solar Power Technology

from: http://www.parabolicarc.com/2009/06/17/powersat-files-patent-app-space-solar-power-technology/

Posted by Doug Messier on June 17, 2009, at 12:22 pm

PowerSat: Space Solar Flies Closer to Earth

Solar from space: It may sound like a bad sci-fi movie, but a growing number of companies think it could solve the world’s energy crisis. Among them is Everett, Wash.-based PowerSat Corp., which said today it’s filed a provisional patent for two technologies it claims could help make the transmission of solar power from space more cost-effective.

CEO William Maness also told us that the 8-year-old company has received commitments for $3-$5 million in angel funding, which it’s using to develop wireless power demonstrations on Earth, and is currently in negotiations for a first venture round in the single-digit millions.

The PowerSat news comes after Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based Solaren, another space solar company, in April signed a deal to provide power to northern California utility PG&E. And Swiss startup Space Energy recently said it’s working to launch a prototype satellite into space in 2-3 years.

Read the full story.


PowerSat Corporation (www.powersat.com), a pioneer in safe and reliable energy generation from space, today announced the filing of U.S. Provisional Patent No. 61/177,565 or “SPACE-BASED POWER SYSTEMS AND METHODS.” The patent includes two technologies, BrightStar and Solar Powered Orbital Transfer (SPOT), which enable the reduction of launch and operation costs by roughly $1 billion for a 2,500 megawatt (MW) power station.

“This patent filing is a watershed moment not only for PowerSat but for a renewables industry that, until now, could neither compete economically nor generate power at the base load scale of oil or coal,” said PowerSat CEO William Maness. “Today, the convergence of technology and energy demand, combined with the political will to wean us off of fossil fuels, enables space solar power (SSP) to fill a widening clean energy supply gap.”

SSP is a clean, viable solution to our world’s growing energy problems. Not limited by weather or geography, SSP solves the intermittency problems of earth-based renewables by providing a reliable and flexible energy source that is available 24/7. The underlying technology components are proven and systems will be deployable within a decade. Solar energy is captured via solar power satellites (known as powersats) and transmitted wirelessly to receiving stations at various points around the globe. Thousands of megawatts can be harnessed and shifted between receiving stations thousands of miles from each other—all in a matter of seconds.

PowerSat Corporation’s first patented technology, BrightStar, allows individual powersats to form a wireless power transmission beam without being physically connected to each other. This “electronic coupling,” conceptually similar to cloud computing, effectively eliminates the need to handle large (gigawatt) levels of power in a single spacecraft. Because of BrightStar, one transmission beam may now come from hundreds of smaller powersats. Another advantage of Brightstar is increased reliability. If any of the individual component satellites fail they can be easily replaced without significantly affecting the performance of the system, thus establishing much greater reliability.

The other technology being patented by PowerSat, Solar Power Orbital Transfer (SPOT) propels a spacecraft to an optimal, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) using electronic thrusters that are powered by the same solar array that is eventually used for wireless power transmission. Until now, all satellites have had to use chemical propulsion or a chemically fueled “space tug” to move from Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is 300-1,000 miles in altitude to GEO, which is 22,236 miles in altitude.

SPOT technology also decreases the weight of a powersat by 67%, dramatically reducing launch costs, and enabling PowerSat modules to fly on rockets to LEO, deploy their solar powered electronic thrusters and then fly themselves out to GEO. GEO, the orbit for most communications satellites, is optimal because it allows a powersat to harvest the sun’s energy continuously.

About PowerSat
PowerSat Corporation is a pioneer in generating safe, clean, reliable energy from space based in Everett, Washington. Solar energy is captured via satellites (known as powersats) and transmitted wirelessly to receiving stations at various points around the globe. Thousands of megawatts can be harnessed and shifted between receiving stations thousands of miles from each other—all in a matter of seconds. At a cost comparable to a large hydropower project, PowerSat seeks to leverage gigawatts of untapped solar energy and is motivated by a vision of legitimate energy independence and a truly clean energy portfolio. PowerSat Corporation is partnered with PowerSat Limited in London, and is a subsidiary of PowerSat International which is based in Gibraltar. For more information please visit www.powersat.com.

13 June 2009

Boy hit by Meterorite

From: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/5/20090612/tod-boy-hit-by-meteorite-travelling-at-3-870a197.html
A teenager was hit by a meteorite travelling at 30,000mph - and lived to tell the tale.
The white-hot meteorite bounced off the schoolboy's hand and hit the ground so hard it left a foot-long crater in the tarmac - as well as a three-inch scar on his hand.

Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified

Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified
By Leonard David
SPACE.com's Space Insider Columnist
posted: 10 June 2009
05:35 pm ET

For 15 years, scientists have benefited from data gleaned by U.S. classified satellites of natural fireball events in Earth's atmosphere – but no longer.

A recent U.S. military policy decision now explicitly states that observations by hush-hush government spacecraft of incoming bolides and fireballs are classified secret and are not to be released, SPACE.com has learned.

The satellites' main objectives include detecting nuclear bomb tests, and their characterizations of asteroids and lesser meteoroids as they crash through the atmosphere has been a byproduct data bonanza for scientists.

The upshot: Space rocks that explode in the atmosphere are now classified.

"It's baffling to us why this would suddenly change," said one scientist familiar with the work. "It's unfortunate because there was this great synergy...a very good cooperative arrangement. Systems were put into dual-use mode where a lot of science was getting done that couldn't be done any other way. It's a regrettable change in policy."

Scientists say not only will research into the threat from space be hampered, but public understanding of sometimes dramatic sky explosions will be diminished, perhaps leading to hype and fear of the unknown.


Most "shooting stars" are caused by natural space debris no larger than peas. But routinely, rocks as big as basketballs and even small cars crash into the atmosphere. Most vaporize or explode on the way in, but some reach the surface or explode above the surface. Understandably, scientists want to know about these events so they can better predict the risk here on Earth.

Yet because the world is two-thirds ocean, most incoming objects aren't visible to observers on the ground. Many other incoming space rocks go unnoticed because daylight drowns them out.

Over the last decade or so, hundreds of these events have been spotted by the classified satellites. Priceless observational information derived from the spacecraft were made quickly available, giving researchers such insights as time, a location, height above the surface, as well as light-curves to help pin down the amount of energy churned out from the fireballs.

And in the shaky world we now live, it's nice to know that a sky-high detonation is natural versus a nuclear weapon blast.

Where the space-based surveillance truly shines is over remote stretches of ocean – far away from the prospect of ground-based data collection.

But all that ended within the last few months, leaving scientists blind-sided and miffed by the shift in policy. The hope is that the policy decision will be revisited and overturned.

Critical importance

"The fireball data from military or surveillance assets have been of critical importance for assessing the impact hazard," said David Morrison, a Near Earth Object (NEO) scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. He noted that his views are his own, not as a NASA spokesperson.

The size of the average largest atmospheric impact from small asteroids is a key piece of experimental data to anchor the low-energy end of the power-law distribution of impactors, from asteroids greater than 6 miles (10 kilometers) in diameter down to the meter scale, Morrison told SPACE.com.

"These fireball data together with astronomical observations of larger near-Earth asteroids define the nature of the impact hazard and allow rational planning to deal with this issue," Morrison said.

Morrison said that fireball data are today playing additional important roles.

As example, the fireball data together with infrasound allowed scientists to verify the approximate size and energy of the unique Carancas impact in the Altiplano -- on the Peru-Bolivia border -- on Sept. 15, 2007.

Fireball information also played an important part in the story of the small asteroid 2008 TC3, Morrison said. That was the first-ever case of the astronomical detection of a small asteroid before it hit last year. The fireball data were key for locating the impact point and the subsequent recovery of fragments from this impact.

Link in public understanding

Astronomers are closing in on a years-long effort to find most of the potentially devastating large asteroids in our neck of the cosmic woods, those that could cause widespread regional or global devastation. Now they plan to look for the smaller stuff.

So it is ironic that the availability of these fireball data should be curtailed just at the time the NEO program is moving toward surveying the small impactors that are most likely to be picked up in the fireball monitoring program, Morrision said.

"These data have been available to the scientific community for the past decade," he said. "It is unfortunate this information is shut off just when it is becoming more valuable to the community interested in characterizing near Earth asteroids and protecting our planet from asteroid impacts."

The newly issued policy edict by the U.S. military of reporting fireball observations from satellites also caught the attention of Clark Chapman, a planetary scientist and asteroid impact expert at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

"I think that this information is very important to make public," Chapman told SPACE.com.

"More important than the scientific value, I think, is that these rare, bright fireballs provide a link in public understanding to the asteroid impact hazard posed by still larger and less frequent asteroids," Chapman explained.

Those objects are witnessed by unsuspecting people in far-flung places, Chapman said, often generating incorrect and exaggerated reports.

"The grounding achieved by associating these reports by untrained observers with the satellite measurements is very useful for calibrating the observer reports and closing the loop with folks who think they have seen something mysterious and extraordinary," Chapman said.

09 June 2009

Should India and the US cooperate on space solar power?

From: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1389/1
Should India and the US cooperate on space solar power?
by Taylor Dinerman
Monday, June 8, 2009

If the US has a serious medium-term need for a very large new source of clean energy, India needs it even more. While there is a lot of talk about terrestrial solar, wind, and geothermal power as alternatives to coal—which seems to be currently politically unacceptable—or nuclear—which has its own set of political problems but whose greatest drawback may simply be the length of time it takes to build new power plants—space solar power (SSP) may be the only alternative that could be made to work before the major global electricity demand crisis hits, around the year 2050.

In Washington lots of people have complained that the Obama Administration has so far not given the India-US relationship the attention it deserves. Others are waiting to see if this relatively new team is going to follow up on the progress made by both the Clinton and the George W. Bush Administrations in building a real friendship between the two democratic giants. The one area in which there seems to be movement on, though, is a “renewable energy partnership”.

From India’s standpoint the government does take the energy problem very seriously. While they connect it with the question of climate change, they have made it clear that they are not willing to inflict economic pain on their people in order to appease those in the West who are demanding that they cease their current drive to climb out of mass poverty in the name of the environment. Former External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee made this clear when he spoke at the Asia Society in New York last year and said, “It is therefore completely one sided to target countries like India, whose emissions though modest are rising, but fail to bring to account those who have been responsible for more than 70% of the accumulated emissions in the atmosphere.”

Recognizing the potential weakness of a case based strictly on the question of climate change, Mukherjee was wise enough to add that “even if there were no climate change arguments, considerations of energy security alone would require a medium to long term strategy of implementing a strategic shift from fossil fuels to non fossil fuels.” He called for a “major R&D effort to develop applications that that can provide convenient, cost effective large scale applications of solar energy.”

Any analysis of the potential of terrestrial solar energy in India or elsewhere runs up against the awesome size of the future demand for power.

Photovoltaic panels on rooftops and solar water heaters all make excellent small-scale contributions to the solution, but they cannot by any stretch of the imagination fulfill the requirements of a huge growing economy like India’s. Only SSP, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year after year, can hope to meet this need.

Fortunately both India and the US have space programs and technologies that could, if developed together and possibly with other interested nations such as Japan, bring SSP systems into service sometime late next decade or the early 2020s. With its commitment to develop a new low cost reusable spaceplane, the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is already working on one of the key technologies needed for an SSP system.
Indian participation in both private and public SSP programs should be welcomed by the US. The US government should make an effort to facilitate this by helping with visas and work permits for qualified Indian scientists and engineers. Recent moves towards reforming the notorious International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) should include ensuring that SSP systems are covered by the Department of Commerce regulators rather than by the State Department, which has gained such a sorry reputation in this area.

In the near term the new Indo-US renewable energy partnership would seem to be the right place to start this collaboration. Together the partners can identify what will be needed in the way of technological and scientific investments over the next decade in order to make SSP a reality. India has lots of talent that can be committed to this effort and so does the US. In fact, the kind of ambitious idealism that we saw at NASA during the Apollo years could be engendered by this goal.

Safe, clean, abundant energy from the Sun is not an impossible dream. The technology has not been perfected and the need for new, low-cost Earth-to-orbit transportation systems is as urgent as ever, but there are no requirements for any scientific breakthroughs.

The Space Solar Power Study released by the US National Security Space Office (NSSO) in October 2007 found that since the 1977 “Reference” study, there had been:

a) Improvements in PV [photovoltaic] efficiency from about 10% (1970s) to more than 40% (2007);

b) Increases in robotics capabilities from simple tele-operated manipulators in a few degrees of freedom (1970s) to fully autonomous robotics with insect-class intelligence and 30–100 degrees of freedom (2007);

c) Increases in the efficiency of solid state devices from around 20% (1970s) to as much as 70%–90% (2007);

d) Improvements in materials for structures from simple aluminum (1970s) to advanced composites including nanotechnology composites (2007)

The 2007 NSSO study showed just how far the technology had come and why space solar power is now a more viable alternative for very large-scale power generation than ever before. India and the US are natural partners in the development of this technology and the opportunity provided by the planned renewable energy partnership is a perfect place to begin.

Comment by RG posted on this web site

This article is good news for many of us in India who, since 1990, have strongly advocated a global aerospace and energy mission with India and the US as start-up partners for an integrated SSP-RLV technology demonstrator R&D programme; followed later by full-scale SSP-RLV revenue earning missions.

The global electricity crisis expected in 2050 has already hit India. In India, while ISRO is focused on a TSTO approach to low cost access to space, the DRDO is not far behind with an airbreathing "aerobic" SSTO approach for safe, affordable space launch, conceived specifically for the global SSP mission.

Early 1990 SSP-RLV studies in India had brought out clearly that high RLV payload efficiency (10-15% as against Shuttle’s 1.5%) and SSP-relevant RLV design features were just as mission critical for the SSP mission as light weight high efficiency (25-30%) solar cells and SSP systems architecture integrated into the payload bay and orbit-transfer design at very early stages of the system-of-systems design.

I for one hope that President Obama's initiative to build a renewable energy partnership with India includes such an integrated SSP-RLV approach as well

04 June 2009

Ideal Launch Sites to GEO

Launching from the equator, Eastward over water seems to be ideal. If we look at which nation's have such advantages, the list includes:
- Brazil
- Somalia
- Southern Maldives
- Indonesia (several locations)
- US: Baker Island, Howard Island
- Nauru

- French Guyana
- Kenya
- Philippines (far South)
- Micronesia States


Looks like the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) had quite a large program on Space Solar Power: http://www.nss.org/isdc/ISDC_2009_Program_Agenda_Web.pdf

According to the NSS Website (http://www.nss.org/about/):
The National Space Society (NSS) is an independent, educational, grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Founded as the National Space Institute (1974) and L5 Society (1975), which merged to form NSS in 1987 (see merger proclamation), NSS is widely acknowledged as the preeminent citizen's voice on space. NSS has over 12 thousand members (and more supporters) and over 50 chapters in the United States and around the world. The society also publishes Ad Astra magazine, an award-winning periodical chronicling the most important developments in space.
  • NSS Vision: "People living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity."
  • NSS Mission: "to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth, to settle space and to use the resulting resources to build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity."
  • NSS Rationale – Why Our Mission is Important: Survival, Growth, Prosperity, and Curiosity

SSP for the Middle East (MENA)?

Interesting PowerPoint discusses a possible Space Solar Power Research Center (page 12-14) under the Al Maktoum foundation, in Dubai, UAE:

Sounds like something the visionary Sheik would take on. This is apparently connected with a Reymond Voutier at eNotus International (http://www.enotus.com/enTouchCMS/app/viewDocument?docID=102&parntCatgId=63)

3 Space Solar Posts

From: http://www.ecohearth.com/eco-news/eco-op-ed/593-space-based-solar-power-the-time-has-come.html by Steven Kotler

Dreamy, yes, but not actually science fiction.

In 1968, Peter Glaser—inventor, NASA-advisor and VP for Advanced Technology at Arthur C. Little—figured out in principle how to transmit electric power via microwaves. A study done in 1981 by the EPA, DOE, NASA and the Department of Commerce,researchers found no “insurmountable obstacles” to the whole idea. The hard proof came in 2008, when researchers sent a microwave beam 92 miles between two Hawaiian islands and kept it up for four months straight.

The 92-mile distance was chosen because it’s equivalent to the amount of atmosphere a microwave beamed from space would have to penetrate.

In fact, just about every piece in this puzzle—from inflatable mylar solar panels to the massive antennae needed to catch the signals back here on Earth—has been solved. The real remaining problems are those familiar devils: cost and will.

Skeptics often point out that despite the obvious advantages to space-based solar power, price will always be the determining factor. Currently, using existing technology, everyone’s best guess is that such a system would cost about $10 billion to install and generate electricity at—in a very optimistic scenario—50 cents per kWh.

Certainly that’s not cheap, but skeptics often forget the size of the mess we’re now in.

But shouldn’t we consider a little resource reallocation?

According to Greenpeace, Americans subsidize the fossil-fuel industry in the range of $15-to-$35 billion every year. And this doesn’t include the extra $2 billion we’re ponying up for the Clean Coal Technology Roadmap—a sure way to get lost if there ever was one.

Hmm. What could we spend those billions on…

Well, if you don’t like my low-tech solution, how about the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E—the newly established DOE big-think, no-idea-too-crazy, pie-in-the sky energy research lab.

ARPA-E is one of the Obama administration’s wondrous ideas, touted as our great hope for an environmentally friendly energy future, with a current operating budget of $400 million.

This means we’re willing to spend less than 1/25th (at the least) on serious innovation when compared to what we—meaning the taxpayers—spend subsidizing the extraction industries.

And an interesting architecture discussion
From: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1383/1 by Trevor Brown
A nation such as the United States would have developed enough clean and renewable solar energy to become one of the world’s foremost energy exporters.

If solar power satellites such as these did come into being, they would very likely necessitate the overhaul of the entire global economy to achieve broad compatibility with the new energy technology. The resultant economic transformation would be incredible, creating many new high technology jobs in industries across the world, but especially in the nation that was at the epicenter of the SSP breakthrough. In fact, of greatest economic impact may not be the new energy technology itself, but rather the wave of innovation arising in complement to the new energy technology.

And yet the tremendous symbolic power that these satellites could possess may have a profound impact far beyond the realm of economics and the environment. Due to their photovoltaic properties, large enough spheres could have a crystalline appearance in space visible from the Earth with the naked eye, giving them the appearance of diamonds in the sky. If this were the case, these satellites would not only drastically reduce carbon emissions and provide a plentiful source of renewable energy, but there physical beauty across the backdrop of both day and night skies could be surreal for onlookers, causing many around the world to become enamored with the entrepreneurial verve of a nation that developed them as well as with the culture that created them. A nation that owned and operated what appeared to be diamonds in the sky producing abundant clean energy would surely be at the forefront of global leadership, attracting the sentiments of much of the world’s population into its socio-political camp.

Of even greater socio-cultural impact could be their effect on the technological aptitude of a nation, as the case may very well be that crystalline discs shining like diamonds in the sky could inspire an entire generation of young Americans to excel in math and science like never before. With the tangible, ever present symbol of mathematical excellence glimmering in the sky by day and by night, kids could very likely develop a whole new appreciation for the “coolness” of science.

http://www.idsa.in/publications/stratcomments/PeterGarretson220509.htm by Peter Garretson
Space as the Source of Our Future Energy
Peter Garretson

May 22, 2009

The idea is to launch giant orbiting solar collectors into space, where there is no night, and beam the power to receivers on the ground, where it is fed as electricity to the grid. Long championed by former President Dr. Abdul Kalam, and the Aerospace Society of India (AeSI), the idea is seen as a long-term solution for energy security and climate change, and the most environmentally benign and scalable renewable energy option, which deserves its own focused development programme.

Such satellites would be the largest, most ambitious space projects ever contemplated. A single solar power satellite would be several kilometres long, with a transmitting antenna about a kilometre across, and generate between one and ten Gigawatts (as much power as 10 nuclear power plants). It might weigh tens of thousands of metric tons and would require a fleet of reusable space vehicles to construct. Follow-on designs might use materials from the Moon.

Existing communications satellites use a similar process, using the power of the Sun on their solar arrays to power a radio transmitter for sending radio and television signals. But the small antenna on communications satellites prevents them from being able to focus a beam for power-beaming. To beam power, the transmitter must be increased to almost a kilometre long, and a special receiver, a rectifying antenna, or rectenna is required. The rectenna would be several kilometres across, about the size of a municipal airport, made of a thin metal mesh, and would be 80 per cent transparent to sunlight, allowing the land underneath it to be used for pastoral, agricultural use or production of algae biodiesel. Far from some scary space-ray, the large transmitting and receiving antenna, the high conversion efficiency, and the constant availability allow the beam to be very low power—about a sixth the strength of sunlight on a warm sun tan beach day. Except that sunlight contains high frequency ultraviolet rays which can strip off electrons in our cells and cause cancer. The beam from a Solar Power Satellite would be of low frequency, very similar to current wi-fi devices, and is non-ionizing and not dangerous like UV.

Proponents feel it is an attractive option for several reasons. One, by 2025 the world will have added another two billion people, its energy needs will have doubled, the combustion of fossil fuels will continue to alter the composition of the atmosphere with concerns about climate change, and by mid-century we would have exhausted most of our fossil fuels. By mid-century India alone would have added 300,000,000 people, expanded its electrical generating capacity eleven-fold, from 121 GWe to 1350 GWe, moved upwards of 60 per cent of its population to cities, and exhausted all or almost all of its fossil resources. How are we to maintain a sustainable civilization if we remain a closed system and never access the vast wealth of all the rest of the universe?

In space faring advocate Mike Snead’s excellent paper, “The End of Easy Energy and What to Do About It,” he lays out the need and opportunity for Space Solar Power. Today the total world needs about 81 Billion Barrel of Oil Equivalent (BOE) thermal or about 15 TWe. And by 2100, to complete development to the “gold standard” of 30 BOE per capita, will require an expansion to probably 300 billion BOE, or roughly 55 TWe. By 2100 we will probably be about 50 years beyond the age of oil, and will have had to increase our renewable/sustainable energy 26 times. Even with a massive up-scaling of terrestrial renewable energy in the most optimistic estimates, the deficit is still close to 60 per cent. 55TWe is just very hard to come by on Earth. But what if we go to space, where energy is abundant, where the Sun never sets and delivers up to 9 times as much energy per unit area as on Earth, and 24 hours a day? There, in the Geostationary belt alone, is thought to be in excess of 177TWe of exploitable green solar energy—and it will be there for at least a billion years. If we could provide 55 GWe of green energy we fix our climate and energy problems in the long run, and we would grow the Gross World Product (GWP) over ten-fold. Imagine a world greater than an order of magnitude wealthier, a world fully developed with the security that a high standard of living brings. Can we afford to ignore a resource that vast? Does not extraordinary reward justify extraordinary effort? Those in the space movement think it cannot be ignored and that we need not only have to look beneath our feet for our energy, but can look to the stars for renewable, sustainable, scalable energy, and for a cleaner, brighter tomorrow.