21 August 2009
Committing to Continuity
Wednesday 19 August 2009, by Namrata Goswami
When Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Hussein Obama emerged as a front-runner in the 2008 US Presidential elections, many in India especially in the policy circles were worried. The argument was that “the George W. Bush Jr years” had been one of the most productive for enhancing US-India strategic relationship after decades of distrust and suspicion. So, the related major question dominating Indian policy discourses was: will a Democratic President continue the upsurge in US-India ties of the Republican years, the jewel of which was the July 18, 2005 Indo-US civilian nuclear deal?
One did not have to wait too long for an answer. It came during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s four-day visit to India from July 17 to 20, 2009.
On July 20, 2009, the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and India’s External Affairs Minister, S. M. Krishna, issued a Joint Statement which reaffirmed the commitment of both India and the US to continue the “new heights achieved in the India-US relationship over the last two Indian and US Administrations” and to now start a third transformative phase under the Obama Administration. Both nations also committed to annually hold an “India-US Strategic Dialogue” focusing on bilateral, regional and global issues of common concern. Among the list of stated commitments, the commitment to a “nuclear free world” and “defence cooperation” under the 2005 Defence Co-operation Framework Agreement is exciting to say the least. Nuclear weapons in the South Asian context, while bringing about stability to an extent between India and Pakistan, have not been overtly successful in thwarting acts of terror and “limited wars” especially between the two states (read Kargil and cross-border terrorism). Also, a nuclear free world is perhaps strategically critical to India as its neighbour Pakistan possesses a range of nuclear weapons the security of which is suspect. That nuclear terrorism is a potential threat for India from Pakistan is a critical area of concern for India; and the July 20, 2009 Joint Statement recognises the vital importance of nuclear weapons safety.
The most important aspect of the Joint Statement was the section on “Civil Nuclear Cooperation”. Setting at ease the Indian sceptics of a Democratic Presidential Administration’s commitment to carry on with India what the former Republican Administration agreed to with regard to the reprocessing of procedures under Article 6 (iii) of the 123 Agreement, the Joint Statement made a commitment to do just that. In fact, on July 21, 2009, President Obama submitted his first report to Congress on the July 18, 2005 Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Deal stating that it had opened up new pathways for serious talks on non-proliferation between the US and India.
It is rather clear by now that the July 20, 2009 Joint Statement reflects the fact that the US recognises India as an important actor in the international system and will like to see it as an ally on issues of global importance especially in the economic sphere. The US is India’s largest trading partner investing around US $ 10 billion while India has also increased its stakes by investing heavily in the US economy (US $ 3.7 billion in 2008). The nuclear reactor market is very enticing to the US as India is aiming to import 24 nuclear reactors in the next 10-15 years, creating “as many as 20,000 new jobs in the US from nuclear trade”, according to a Confederation of Indian Industry report. India also intends to replace 125 of its aging Soviet fighter planes and the US is competing with Russia, France and Britain to win for itself the multi-million dollar deal.
WHILE all these seem rather encouraging in terms of upgrading the strategic partnership between India and the US, bottlenecks on issues like climate change and nuclear proliferation can create obstacles for a smooth sail in the near future. The July 20, 2009 Joint Statement was rather ambiguous regarding the nature of non-proliferation sought from India by the US in relation to its nuclear weapons capability. It was also vague regarding the commitment that the US was willing to give to ensure that India’s neighbours, especially Pakistan, over which it has a disproportionate level of influence, will not be used as a ground for terror training aimed at India.
When it comes to hardcore state relations, it will be perhaps prudent on India’s part to clearly state its intentions from an enhanced defence cooperation with the US given the fact that China, and not the US, shares a physical border with India. China has the potential to do mischief in volatile areas like North-East India and Kashmir. So is the case with Pakistan. Also, following as it does so close on the heels of the G-20 summit where India appeared to be leaning more towards China and Russia, this kind of overt posturing with the US by India sends out mixed and ambiguous signals to countries like Brazil, China and Russia with whom India has a lot at stake given the nature of their economies and development commonalities with India.
At the realm of technology, while the Joint Statement clearly reiterated both the US and India’s commitment to high technology cooperation in the field of space launch vehicles, FutureGen project, Integrated Ocean Development, nano-technology, civil nuclear technology etc., one fails to decipher what these mean in terms of India’s mass population and poverty ratios. How are nano-technology transfers or civil nuclear technology going to provide energy to India’s energy starved millions? High-sounding policy statements need to be more specific on commitments to their own population.
The section on “Energy Security, Environment and Climate Change” did refer to renewable energies like solar (perhaps the most viable in terms of energy to the rural masses in India) but it appeared as an afterthought. The Renewable Energy Partnership between India and the US, as currently being defined by the Obama Administration and UPA Government, should not just deal with tactical issues of today, but include long-term advanced energy concepts such as Space-Based Solar Power which will broadly push for strategic, rather than just tactical, cooperation across a host of major dialogues. Given the analyses of government projections of both countries, India is projected to have 4.4x the absolute renewable energy market from now till 2030. Hence, the section on renewables should have formed a vital component of the Joint Statement in view of its significance to both countries, especially India.
India also needs to pressurise the US for greater participation in the future civil space regime. Aerospace contains some of India’s greatest talent, and it needs to be brought to bear on the energy sector.
Even if the particular technology does not pan out, it will
—create a flurry of activity and discussion around advanced energy, space, and long-term thinking;
—create a bilateral network that will be very useful in the future;
—will put further pressure on the US to reconsider its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) policies;
—elevate both nations’ thinking to grander ideas;
—inspire a lot of youth;
—further mature ground solar energy by bringing in additional talent from the Aerospace Sector;
—create informed opinion on how to meet India’s energy needs for its own population.
Hence, while it is a welcome sign that the Obama Administration and UPA Government (in its second term) have committed to continue enhanced strategic partnership, it is vital that India raises the stakes in some of the issues of vital interest to its own stability and prosperity.
Dr Namrata Goswami is a Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Dialogue, La Trobe University, Melbourne, and Associate Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
DOE smacks down Space Solar to Fund Hot Parking Lots
The ARPA-E initiative is a project of the Department of Energy, its purpose is to fund “high-risk, high-payoff transformational R&D … that can enhance the economic and energy of the United States through reductions of imports of energy from foreign sources, etc.” (more here)
Funded with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one would think that ARPA-E, being a semantic cousin of the Pentagon’s well-known DARPA division, famous for its assisted walking suits, robotic espionage dragonflys and, of course, the , would have a slew of strange projects on their roster. However, one scientist, whose rejected space based solar program requested a modest $2 million dollars for further , feels the DOE’s selection process was a bit lopsided.
Senior Breakthrough Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Physics at NYU, Martin Hoffert, has long made the case for space-based solar power as an alternative to earth-moored models. Up beyond the filters of pollution and the limits of daylight, the sun’s energy is nearly constant and undiffused. Using solar panels affixed to a satellite or, say, the International Space Station, the idea would be to beam the energy back to terrestrial sources in the form of microwaves or some other heretofore undiscovered method.
Hoffert even has the PR effort down pat, as he explains in a segment for Clean Skies TV: “We’ve spent a fortune on the International Space Station, and people are still saying, ‘What have we got from it?’ Well, we could probably beam power from the International Space Station to various locations along its ground track, including some in developing countries that have no prospect of getting energy.”
Now that certainly sounds “transformational”; and for $2 million dollars it’s a no-brainer, right? But out of the 3500 applications the ARPA-E program received, only 40 – 60 (roughly 1.1%) will receive funding of between $3 to $5 million dollars. While Hoffert’s program got the snub, in the approved pile is a project that aims to capture the heat trapped in asphalt parking lots and other paved surfaces via a series of tubes filled with.
On his Dot Earth blog, NY Times science reporter, Andy Revkin, asks the $2 million dollar question: “Which project strikes you as more ‘transformational’?”
Solaren gets the nod from PG&E, Hoffert gets the snub…
Not only is Hoffert’s query more transformational, it is also supported by big industry. When news broke this April that California’s biggest energy utility, PG&E, had signed on with Solaren, a manufacturer of solar cells, to potentially capture and beam back to earth 200 megawatts of electricity from solar power stations orbiting the earth, can you guess who wasn’t too surprised to hear the news?
PG&E have contributed no money to the project as of yet, but have promised to buy the energy back from Solaren at an undisclosed, but roughly equivalent rate to the current market prices of other renewables.
“Solaren would generate the power using solar panels in Earth orbit and convert it to radio-frequency that would be beamed down to a receiving station in Fresno, PG&E said. From there, the energy would be converted into electricity and fed into PG&E’s power grid.” (via MSNBC)
The Solaren plan puts together some more of the specifics about how they plan to get the satellites into space via private deployment vehicles, which makes sense given that most of its employees are former aerospace engineers, but it makes no mention of using methods other than those that Hoffert and his son, through their company, Versatility Energy, have long pioneered to beam the wattage back to terra firma.
So it would seem that with a major utility taking the time to put its public stamp of commitment upon a technology, that the development of the above-mentioned “undiscovered methods” would merit at least a couple million dollars in the meantime, particularly if the results might further the adoption of a potentially limitless resource. Then again, maybe ARPA-E’s focus is on something a bit more pedestrian.
SPACE SOLAR POWER SATELLITES
Space Solar Power from satellites could generate power from Sun. The basic idea of solar power satellites (SPS) has been around since 1968, but Solar Power Satellites. Space and Aeronautics, House Committee on Science regarding solar power satellites. Solar Satellites Will Power Earth, Scientists Say “Space solar power is something that should be explored seriously. Solar power satellites have promised to provide cheap, clean power for decades, but we have made very little progress on the concept in over 30 years. ” Space solar power can solve these problems,” Nansen said. Scientists say satellites powered by solar power will become a major energy source. Solar Power Satellites (SPS) are fairly large structures in space that convert solar energy, captured as solar irradiation, into an energy form that can be t.
The Space Elevator and Solar Power Satellites (SPS) May 22nd, 2007 I am in favor of space solar thermal power reactors. On “The Vital Need for America to Develop Space Solar Power” John Mankins before House Science Committee Hearings on Solar Power Satellites “. Space Solar Power- An Earth to Orbit Transportation Challenge. Obama-Biden Transition Project: Space Solar Power (SSP)- A Solution for Energy space-based solar power. More about solar power in space:Orbiting Space Power Systems Would Convert. Turning NEOs into solar satellites and space colonies would be a good way to. 126.96.36.199 Space Utility Market Areas 188.8.131.52.1 GEO Solar Power Satellites 184.108.40.206.1.1 Introduction Large power satellites in GEO were extensively studied in the late 1970s by various.
PowerSat Corporation estimates they can make 2500 megawatts of space based solar power. Space-based solar power is the 24/7/365 collection of solar power by satellites announced a plan to build the first-ever space-based solar power satellites. that could usher in an era of abundant solar energy from satellites above.
The “SolarDisc” concept is a single, large-scale GEO-based, RF-transmitting space solar power systems. other satellites with solar arrays that have been damaged by space debris, and Solar power satellites were considered by O’Neill because energy. Advanced Electric Propulsion For Space Solar Power Satellites. July 16, 2007 If solar power satellites (SPS) were available in. Energy: Satellites that beam solar power to earth have often appeared in science Space solar power is an idea far ahead of its time, but the necessary technology. The solar power satellite would harness energy directly from the sun and broadcast it back to a PG&E signs up for 200 MW of baseload space solar power. To join in a discussion about Solar Power Satellites visit the Solar Power Satellite Place. to make the case for space solar satellites close, property rights will help with development. space, solar collectors mounted on orbiting satellites could generate power 24 hours per day. Clean solar energy will be transmitted from these orbiting satellites to. Solar Power Satellite art set Sun-Powered Laser Beaming from Space for Electricity on Earth. Space Future is for everyone who’d like to visit space.
Space Based Solar Power (SBSP) is an idea first voiced by scientist Dr. National Space Society Calls for NASA Power Plant: Ben Bova, president of the National Space Society, says the time is right for NASA to build and launch a 1 b. In that sense, space-based solar power could be a “. Is beaming energy from space bound solar satellites the answer to our energy crisis? satellites that will operate as space solar energy collectors and transmitters.
In 1968, Peter Glaser proposed developing Space Solar Power (SSP) Space Systems Engineering: Design the SSP satellites and ground facilities.
Concepts for solar power satellites were being discussed in the 1960s and they If solar power satellites are such a great thing, why haven’t more people been. Will space solar power ever be practical? Space solar power (SSP) is an innovative, reliable, technologically advanced way ( more about powersats or solar power satellites) PowerSat News. SPACE Canada Solar Power Alternative for Clean Energy is a not-for-profit promotion of space-based solar power via geo-synchronous satellites as an. Image from NASA How pie-in-the-sky is Ben Bova’s space satellite scheme?
16 August 2009
12 August 2009
WASHINGTON - NASA is charged with spotting most of the asteroids that pose a threat to Earth but doesn't have the money to complete the job, a federal report says.
That's because even though Congress assigned the space agency that mission four years ago, it never gave NASA the money to build the necessary telescopes, according to the report released Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences.
Specifically, the mission calls for NASA, by the year 2020, to locate 90 percent of the potentially deadly rocks hurtling through space. The agency says it's been able to complete about one-third of its assignment with the current telescope system.
NASA estimates that there are about 20,000 asteroids and comets in our solar system that are potential threats. They are larger than 460 feet in diameter — slightly smaller than the Superdome in New Orleans. So far, scientists know where about 6,000 of these objects are.
Rocks between 460 feet and 3,280 feet in diameter can devastate an entire region, said Lindley Johnson, NASA's manager of the near-Earth objects program. Objects bigger than that are even more threatening, of course.
Just last month astronomers were surprised when an object of unknown size and origin bashed into Jupiter and created an Earth-sized bruise that is still spreading. Jupiter does get slammed more often than Earth because of its immense gravity, enormous size and location.
Disaster movies like "Armageddon" and near misses in previous years may have scared people and alerted them to the threat. But when it comes to monitoring, the academy concluded "there has been relatively little effort by the U.S. government."
And the United States is practically the only government doing anything at all, the report found.
"It shows we have a problem we're not addressing," said Louis Friedman, executive director of the Planetary Society, an advocacy group.
NASA calculated that to spot the asteroids as required by law would mean spending about $800 million between now and 2020, either with a new ground-based telescope or a space observation system, Johnson said. If NASA got only $300 million it could find most asteroids bigger than 1,000 feet across, he said.
But so far NASA has gotten neither sum.
It may never get the money, said John Logsdon, a space policy professor at George Washington University.
"The program is a little bit of a lame duck," Logsdon said. There is not a big enough group pushing for the money, he said.
At the moment, NASA has identified about five near-Earth objects that pose better than a 1-in-a-million risk of hitting Earth and being big enough to cause serious damage, Johnson said. That number changes from time to time, as new asteroids are added and old ones are removed as information is gathered on their orbits.
The space rocks astronomers are keeping a closest eye on are a 430-foot diameter object that has a 1-in-3,000 chance of hitting Earth in 2048 and a much-talked about asteroid, Apophis, which is twice that size and has a one-in-43,000 chance of hitting in 2036, 2037 or 2069.
Last month, NASA started a new Web site for the public to learn about threatening near-Earth objects.
04 August 2009
Monday, August 03, 2009
Lunar Crater Stats Indicate Hidden Population of Asteroids
The asymmetric distribution of craters on the Moon may have been caused by an undiscovered population of near Earth asteroids
Many moons are locked in synchronous rotation with their mother planets. Examples include the Galilean moons of Jupiter, Neptune?s moon Triton and our own Moon.
In the 1980s and 1990s astronomers noticed that the distribution of craters on these objects was asymmetric: They were more heavily cratered on their leading hemispheres which makes sense since it seems obvious that these areas should be struck more often.
It wasn?t until 2003, however, that the same asymmetric crater distribution was measured on our Moon. Now Takashi Ito at the National Astronomical Observatory in Japan and Renu Malhotra at the University of Arizona have asked an interesting question. of the data. Can the asymmetric distribution of craters on the Moon be explained by the known distribution of near Earth asteroids that are thought to have caused them? Their answer is a cautious ?no?.
To properly explain the crater distribution, Ito and Malhotra say some other factor must have been involved. One possibility is that we simply haven?t seen all the craters yet: The ongoing lunar mapping missions may help on that score.
Another idea is that the Earth?s tidal forces tear Earth-crossing asteroids apart, creating a higher number of impacts than might otherwise be expected.
But the most exciting and potentially worrying possibility is that there exists a previously unseen population of near Earth asteroids that orbit the Sun at approximately the same distance as the Earth. These have gone unnoticed because they are smaller or darker than other asteroids, say Ito and Malhotra.
More complete observational surveys of the near-Earth asteroids can test our prediction, they say.
And let's not waste too much time about it. By some reckonings, asteroid impacts represent the greatest threat to humankind that we are able to calculate.