25 May 2012

Building Space Solar Power Satellites using Lunar Materials and In-Space Habitats


If the 1 billion people were separated into 200 O’Neill habitats, each would house 5 million people, which is the lower population density (O'Neill, 1974) for the original double cylindrical habitat design. This migration could be accomplished in about 35 years, be completely financed by profits from SPS while stabilizing Earth’s global carbon emissions. The probability of human self-extinction during the natural life span of a child born today would decrease from some number uncomfortably close to 1 to a probability less then 1 in ten million.

If human population of 1 billion, all with habitat destroying technology, are dispersed in 50 or less habitats self-extinction within a decade is highly probable. However, with just 160 habitats the chances of self-extinction per year decrease to about one in a million.

Since the mid 20th century we had the technological power to destroy our species and our home planet. This technological power and its associated risks continue to grow with time at an exponential rate. When the human propensity for self destruction and the growth of the availability of technologies of mass destruction are considered, our self-extinction probability can be expected to approach 1 well before the end of this century.
If, on the other hand, a few hundred artificial worlds (as advocated by O'Neill) are placed in the solar system with enough space between them that if one self destructs its neighbor would not be directly affected then the chances of human self-extinction would fall to about 1 chance in 1 million per year.

The results are quite dramatic. While the ground based approach does not appear to be financially practical, the space based approach is financially compelling, promising extraordinary profit if implemented.

The world electricity consumption was about 1966 GW in 2005 and it is projected to be about 4,000 GW by the year 2036, which would be about year 27 of these analyses. Figure 5 gives the economics of the space derived (O’Neill – Glaser) SPS construction model for meeting world electrical power growth requirements and that for stabilization of CO2 emissions. Figure 7 gives the corresponding SPS power delivered to Earth. The “electricity” plan will create 970 GW by year 27, which is 24 percent of the world electricity demand. The higher demand plan will create 8660 GW by year 27, which meets the requirements of Garret’s thermal dynamic global warming model (Garrett, 20009) by replacing 2.1% percent of the total energy consumed each year by non-carbon-emitting sources in order to stabilize world CO2 emissions.From comparison of the curves in Figure 6 it is apparent that the economics of space derived SPS for the higher demand level needed to stabilize global CO2 are even more favorable than for the new electrical demand model. This occurs because after the space infrastructure is in place, there is a high profit margin on SPS production. Ramping up to this higher production requires greater initial investment (about $800 billion at year 17) however program break even occurs 4 years sooner at, at year 20. The profit projected by program year 25 is over $8 trillion.

The space derived (optimized O’Neill – Glaser) model requires an investment of $300 Billion to build the infrastructure on the Moon and in space to allow utilization of lunar materials and space based labor. Once the infrastructure is in place, however, the SPS are constructed more than an order of magnitude cheaper than by Earth launch. These inexpensive SPS have a very large profit margin even when selling electricity below Earth market values. The peak investment of about $460 Billion is paid back at program year 24 and by program year 27 the project is projected to realize $600 Billion in profits.

As shown in Figure 8, the space derived SPS program is capable of financing in
the first 35 years 800 thousand people for the electricity scenario and 1.1 billion people in
space for the CO2 stabilization scenario
. This includes construction of large vista O’Neill
habitats, transportation of the population from Earth to the space habitation, and the population’s
living expenses in space. Again 80% of the population is employed in building SPS or
habitation. After this space real estate focus the space population can be naturally deployed
to develop a solar system based economy

The solar system economy would have little near term limits to growth since the carrying capacity of the asteroid belt alone utilizing O’Neill habitats is estimated to be 10-100 trillion people (Billingham et al, 1979).

1 comment:

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