25 June 2010

Orbital Debris, Planetary Defense, Space Sustainability Issues Detailed Before United Nations Committee


Orbital Debris, Planetary Defense, Space Sustainability Issues Detailed Before United Nations Committee
Released: 6/25/2010 1:00 PM EDT
Source: Secure World Foundation

Newswise — Dealing with the troublesome trend in the growth of Earth-circling orbital debris is a major element to ensure the sustainability of space. Moreover, human and environmental security can be maximized by global cooperative use of space systems to benefit all of humanity.

These were among the topics highlighted by Secure World Foundation (SWF) during the Fifty-third session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), held June 9-18 in Vienna, Austria.

“In all of our work, we actively promote the development of sound policies to support the long term sustainability of outer space activities and the peaceful use of space activities for the benefit of Earth and its peoples,” explained Dr. Ray Williamson, SWF’s Executive Director.

Secure World Foundation attended the Committee meeting as a permanent observer. Joining Williamson at the COPUOS session was Agnieszka Lukaszczyk, a space policy consultant for Secure World Foundation.

In Williamson’s “Exchange of Views Statement” to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on June 11, he detailed SWF’s multi-pronged interests in key areas:

-- Space Sustainability, ensuring that all humanity can continue to use outer space for peaceful purposes and socioeconomic benefit.

-- Space Policy and Space Law Development through assisting emerging space States develop effective space policies.

-- Support of Human and Environmental Security through maximizing the international cooperative use of space systems for the benefit of humanity.

-- Planetary Defense by promoting a unified international policy approach to protection of our planet from the threat of near Earth objects (NEOs).

World community has a unique opportunity

Secure World Foundation is dedicated to maintaining the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples. It acts as a research body, convener and facilitator to advocate for key space sustainability and other space related topics, Williamson said, as well as examining their influence on governance and international development.

“The Foundation believes that the challenge of sustaining the space environment into the future must be dealt with in a truly international manner,” Williamson added, with SWF strongly supporting the work of COPUOS.

“As the benefits of space activities expand and improve, keeping outer space available for peaceful activities will become ever more important,” Williamson stated. “As we move into the last half of the first hundred years of the space age, the world community has a unique opportunity to safeguard the secure and sustainable use of the space environment.”

Reporters note: To access Dr. Ray Williamson’s entire “Exchange of Views Statement” to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, please go to:



Dr. Ray Williamson
Executive Director
Phone: (303) 554-1560
Cell Phone: (303) 501-0430
Email: rwilliamson@swfound.org

About Secure World Foundation

Secure World Foundation (SWF) is headquartered in Superior, Colorado, with offices in Washington, D.C. and Vienna, Austria. SWF is a private operating foundation dedicated to the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples.

SWF engages with academics, policy makers, scientists and advocates in the space and international affairs communities to support steps that strengthen global space security. It promotes the development of cooperative and effective use of space for the protection of Earth’s environment and human security.

The Foundation acts as a research body, convener and facilitator to advocate for key space security and other space related topics and to examine their influence on governance and international development.

24 June 2010

A Compelling Argument For Space Solar Power


A Compelling Argument For Space Solar Power
Posted by Frank Morring, Jr. at 6/22/2010 10:03 AM CDT

A small band of visionary engineers, mostly in Japan and the U.S., has long argued that it would make a lot of sense to apply the space-faring skills gained over the past half century and tap the constant flow of solar energy washing over the planet.

Orbiting solar arrays could convert the Sun's power into electricity and beam it down to the surface as microwaves. Antenna farms could catch it, switch it back to electricity and plug it into the power grid. The technology exists, and has been tested at low power -- and cost -- with mountaintop-to-mountaintop transmissions between a couple of the Hawaiian Islands.

John Mankins, a former NASA technologist and longtime advocate for space solar power (SSP) who helped set up the test, says the next step toward a pilot SSP plant able to generate 5-10 megawatts would be an end-to-end systems study, with early lab work and low-cost flight tests -- perhaps at the International Space Station. The study would take about three years and cost about $100 million.

That's a lot of money, of course, and times are tight. Cost has long been the most effective argument against SSP, because the up-front cost of developing and deploying the technology is greater than the cost of energy from fossil fuel. But consider this:

NASA/MODIS Rapid Response Team

NASA's Terra satellite used its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer June 19 to collect this image of the spreading oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. British Petroleum, the company that owns the mess, has famously agreed to fund a $20 billion cleanup.

That sum, which likely won't be enough to clean up this oily mess, would be a very generous down payment on a space solar power constellation. Certainly it would more than cover the SSP power plant Mankins has suggested.

Maybe it's time to amortize the cost of fossil fuel. The disaster in the Gulf is dramatic evidence that it's more than the price of gasoline at the pump. But so are rising global temperatures, the world's fragile oil-based economy, and the dangerous military conflicts that hold it all together.

By comparison, space solar power is not too expensive. Like sunlight, it's free.

New Bill for Planetary Defense?


21 June 2010

Making the case for Planetary Defense:

Making the case for Planetary Defense:

19 June 2010

Space Solar Update

Outstanding Video of HLV Deploying Prototype Space Solar Power Satellite:

New SpaceEnergy newsletter:

First Solar Sail Spacecraft Photographed (Japanese Deepspace Probe Ikaros "kitecraft" propelled only by sunlight)

Funny Episode of the Daily Show on Energy Independence:

16 June 2010


Beyond Petroleum (Space-Based Solar Power)


Hayabusa returns with Asteroid Dust Sample!
Excerpt: "NASA scientist Paul Abell, who monitored the return, said Hayabusa was significant from in terms planetary defense, bearing in mind an asteroid impact is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs.  Knowing the physical characteristics of near-Earth asteroids would be useful "in case we see something coming at us in the future," he said. As leftover matter from the building of the solar system, he added, asteroids could also tell us about its formation and possibly the origins of life."

Interesting Chronology of Space Solar Power and Solaren

Upcoming July 8-9 Meeting of Adhoc Planetary Defense Group

15 June 2010

Life on Titan?

From: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1995828,00.html

Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010
Life on Titan? Intriguing Findings on Saturn's Moon
By Michael D. Lemonick

Back in August of 1996, headlines around the world were ablaze with three remarkable words: "Life on Mars!" The evidence was circumstantial but compelling: a Martian meteorite recovered in the Antarctic contained what seemed to be fossilized bacteria. NASA's breathless press conference breaking the news, which pre-empted daytime programming, signaled that the discovery should be taken very seriously. But before long, scientists came to the general conclusion that it was probably all just a mistake. Never mind.

That embarrassing episode might help explain why NASA scientists were so quick to muzzle talk of another such "discovery" last week. This one concerned the possibility of life on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Space agency scientists waved off reports — which had been popping up in science publications and bouncing around the Internet — that something might be stirring out there. Such official caution notwithstanding, the findings that led to all the buzz cannot be dismissed entirely. (See the top 50 space moments since Sputnik.)

The whispers began a few weeks ago, with reports coming from the team monitoring the Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn and barnstorming its moons since 2004. Titan was a major focus of the mission all along, since it's bigger than the planet Mercury and the only moon massive enough to have a significant atmosphere. That atmosphere is rich in organic compounds, including methane and other hydrocarbons, so while the moon's frigid temperatures preclude any sort of life as we know it, it has long been thought to offer hints about what a planet might look like before biology takes hold.

Investigators have, however, pondered one other remote possibility. If an alternate form of life could exist with liquid methane taking the place of water in cells and other biological parts — something that's theoretically conceivable — Titan is just the sort of place it might thrive.

About five years ago, NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay and others suggested that if such "methanogens" existed, their collective metabolism could lead to lower levels of ethane and acetylene in Titan's atmosphere than you'd normally expect, and a net migration of hydrogen down onto the surface, where the methanogens would theoretically be sucking it in as food. It's the same kind of clue that might pique the interest of aliens if they noticed the fluctuations of carbon dioxide in our own atmosphere as the changing seasons lead to more and less leaf coverage and greater or lesser CO2 uptake. (See pictures of Saturn.)

Scientists already knew there wasn't as much ethane in Titan's atmosphere as they'd expected. If there had been, the moon would have been covered with an ocean of the stuff several meters deep and Cassini saw nothing of the kind. Now, the spacecraft seems to have found that the other two conditions have been met as well.
So does that mean methanogenic life exists? No. In the very hedged language of the scientist, it means that conditions have been found that are consistent with the presence of that life. But "consistent with" and "evidence for" are two very different things. As McKay says in an essay posted to the Cassini website this week: "This is still a long way from 'evidence of life'." [But], he continues, "it is extremely interesting."

McKay goes on to list four possible explanations for the observations, "in order of their likely reality." First, the hydrogen migration might not really be happening. It's not a direct observation, but rather an extrapolation based on how much hydrogen is in Titan's upper atmosphere compared to the lower atmosphere. If the model that was used to make the extrapolation is wrong in some way, then the result could be a false positive. (See pictures of Earth from space.)

Second, if the model is correct, some other process could be pulling (or pushing) hydrogen toward the surface. Third some kind of strange surface chemistry, rather than living organisms, could be eating up the hydrogen. That's the same conclusion scientists reached — although not unanimously — when the Viking landers detected unexpected chemical activity on the surface of Mars in the 1970s.

Fourth, and least likely: Life on Titan!

The good news for those who are looking for extraterrestrial life is that even though actual biological activity comes last on McKay's list, it does remain an intriguing conjecture. These new results have done nothing, at least, to rule it out. Still, don't wait around for the press conference — at least not yet.

Space Solar Still Unknown in Solar Industry

Dwayne Day blasts Space Solar as being a Retro, Fringe Idea. Enjoy his jabbing editorial, which contains some useful advice to advocates:

"Instead of holding the “Second NSS Space Solar Power Symposium” at the International Space Development Conference next year, they should try to hold it at SOLAR 2011. They should see if they can face the members of the American Solar Energy Society directly and hear what they think of the idea of space solar power. It’s time for the space solar power advocates to decide if they want to be a social organization, no different from a knitting circle or a model train club, or if they want to be an industry."

10 June 2010

China SPS Strategy

See: http://spacejournal.ohio.edu/issue16/ji.html

07 June 2010

Interesting Web Discussion on Space Solar Power

See: http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/104342-Space-based-solar-power?p=1738610

Congratulations SpaceX

SpaceX's successful Falcon 9 Launch...way to go private industry!

06 June 2010

Bill Gates on Innovating to Zero CO2

Bill Gates lays out the need to innovate to Zero CO2 at scalable levels.