10 October 2010

Former USAF and NASA Engineer Hu Davis lays out recommendations for a National Space Solar Power Program

Friday October 8, 2010

Recommendations Regarding the United States Space Program In Support of Developing a Space Based Solar Power System

The United States must start now to ambitiously solve its long-term energy crisis. It is proposed that a Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) Program be initiated, developing design and program information sufficient to support a “go / no go” decision in GFY 2013 to develop & deploy a large system of Solar Power Satellites by 2050. The amount of power generated will be adequate to supplement U.S. baseload power and begin to replace older, coal-fired base power plants. This plan for SBSP includes conducting an early, thorough, updated and comprehensive systems study, including addressing near term "niche markets" and cost competitiveness.  Market forces may permit expansion and continuation of this plan to eventually provide most of Earth’s energy needs.
To support development and deployment of a SBSP system, a robust United States space program must be concurrently developed.  The elements of such a program include:
1. Extension of the ISS to at least 2020 and the Space Shuttle program to 2015 or later if needed. The ISS is an excellent site to space-test many technologies for future space endeavors. The Shuttle provides the means to bring solar power test-bed systems (along with other flagship technology demonstrations) to ISS along with the personnel to support them. Use of the ISS is needed to develop and demonstrate the technologies needed to produce, in space, for Earth’s use, large quantities of electrical power (Space-based Solar Power, or SBSP, or SSP or Solar High) Demonstrations will include:
·       Transmission to Earth of space generated power by microwave or laser to accomplish demonstration of atmospheric transmission and safety.  These tests will also raise public awareness.  The duration of each test from the ISS to any ground station will be limited to a few minutes due to the orbital rate of ISS.
·       Continuous transmissions to rectennae on co-orbiting satellites some distance away from ISS, allowing continuous and long-term tests of most of the SBSP system elements.
2. By a government / private sector / international partnership, develop, produce and place into service by 2016 a kerosene-fuel, winged, fully reusable, vertical takeoff, horizontal landing (VTOHL) Fly-Back Booster (FBB) having the following applications:
a.   Used as a replacement for the RSRBs for a NASA 70-mt heavy-lift Space Launch System that has been approved by Congress for a development start in 2011 and an operational date of 2016.
b.   Mated to a hydrogen fuel expendable upper stage that places over 100 metric tons of payload into orbit on each flight.  This approach has been termed hybrid launch system by USAF and might be developed by them.  Large demonstration Solar Power Satellites and elements of its operational system infrastructure can be deployed with such a system, as can future missions to Mars, its moons, and nearby asteroids.
c.   Mated with a nose-mounted circa 2020 unmanned winged, fully reusable Orbiter of 50 metric tons cargo capability; It will be heavily used to provide launch services for large-scale deployment of a system of commercial SBSP satellites.

Low launch cost of this vehicle is paramount for use at the unprecedented high launch rates expected for the SPS application. A collaborative U.S. and international / federal / commercial program to develop this launch systems must be capable of launch to equatorial orbit, at a marginal cost of $1.0 million or less per metric ton of net payload   Amortization of R&D, acquisition of a small initial fleet and a single initial facility would be negotiated. A possible financial mechanism for development is a guarantee of federal purchase of 10 successful flights per year for 15 years, plus government guarantees on long-term bonds as required to permit private sector leadership in development and operations.
4. Support economical development of large scale SBSP satellites and other beyond-LEO missions by arranging for international involvement to launch from equatorial sites, either on or offshore, permitting ten or more daily “launch windows”, with runway recovery and less than one week “turn-around” for each launch vehicle of the fleet.
5.  Concurrently develop and deploy a fleet of large Electric Orbit Transfer Vehicles (EOTVs) capable of efficiently transferring hundred-ton-class payloads between LEO and GEO.
6.  Support the development and routine operations of commercial transportation for personnel and high priority cargo between LEO, GEO and other space locations.
7. Develop a strategy to exploit lunar resources before 2030 to help support the deployment of a SBSP Satellite System starting with:
·       An ambitious Robotic Lunar Lander project to be developed by an international team to land two tons or more of useful payload near the lunar poles twice per year from 2015 to 2020.
·       Use these missions:
o      to explore the territory near the lunar poles and select a site for a lunar habitat; 
o      to find and extract lunar ice;
o      to demonstrate production of water, oxygen and hydrogen from lunar soil & ice.
o      to develop an operational propellant manufacturing capability
o      to develop prototype metals production on Earth’s moon from lunar regolith and fabrication there of useful end items

8.    With the lunar propellant and other manufacturing capabilities in place, develop and demonstrate operational propellant depots in GEO and Earth-Moon L1 orbits. Propellant manufactured at the lunar base can supply these depots.  Such propellants will support the movement of time-critical SBSP elements, personnel and logistics from LEO to GEO in a much more cost-effective manner than supplying such propellants from Earth.  They will also aid in transferring SBSP elements manufactured on the Moon to their operational location in Earth geo-stationary orbit (GSO) for use there.

9.    Design, develop and operate a NASA space exploration system using the above space transportation system permitting both robotic and human exploration of the moons of Mars, nearby celestial objects and advanced robotic missions beyond the inner solar system.

Recommended by:
Hubert P. Davis, NASA & USAF engineer - retired
Telephone: (210) 698-6896


chandra said...

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Thingumbob said...

Hmm... Krafft Ehricke (who certainly had a passion for space colonization) had an idea for using satellites as mirrors to extend the growing season on earth. But I would have thought that anyone with a billion year plan would have thought about the issue of energy flux density in powering our future society. From that standpoint fusion energy and after that matter anti-matter reactions is the obvious direction required.

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