build ssp system

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How to Build a Space Solar Power System Sunsat Corp 25th International Space Development Conference Los Angeles, California May 4-7, 2006 Darel Preble President, Space Solar Power Institute Chair, Space Solar Power Workshop


No company(s) or government agency today, is chartered or capable of assume the immense financial and technical task of initiating construction of an SSPS. It would be like asking a company to build Hoover Dam, the Transcontinental Railroad or the Interstate system without Federal assistance.


Speaking as a former strategic planner for the largest electric power company in the US, there are simply too many engineering, financial, regulatory and managerial risks for any existing organization - utility, aerospace, or government to undertake building an SSPS. This conclusion is not a new: “In the bureaucratic format, satellite power has no natural home and no built-in constituency. NASA, now a timid, fearful NASA made up of aging pre-retirees rather than the young tigers who made Apollo work in just eight years, would be frightened out of its skin by a tough, make-it-work assignment with a tight budget and a tighter time scale. And NASA’s charter doesn’t cover energy. The DOE? Its charter doesn’t include space. The NSF? Satellite power isn’t science, it’s engineering.” - The World’s Energy Future Belongs in Orbit”, by Dr. Gerard O’Neill, Trilogy January/February 1992


America has faced such great challenges before and traveled this road many times before ... There is a tried and true vehicle, that could initiate SSP construction today.


Excursion Train Rounding Cape Horn at The Head of The Great American Canon, With a View of The South Fork of The American River, Where Gold Was Discovered in 1848. …- Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 27, 1878


A public/private Congressionally chartered corporation - like Comsat Corp., chartered in 1962 - has all the requisite advantages. Comsat Corp. and it’s sister Intelsat opened space to the diverse $100 Billion per year communications satellite business of today.


Sunsat Corp. would be dedicated and entirely focussed on building a Space Solar Power Satellite System. It would be open to private investment, as Comsat was, and given certain developmental subsidies.


The bridge needed to build SSP is to lower the current prices of space photovoltaics, space transportation, and other necessary commodities - now too high for SSP to be profitable. We agree. With higher PV production and launch volumes, etc., Sunsat would be legislatively equipped to build those bridges, just as those previous public/private companies did.


Key Technologies Low cost orbital space transportation (freight, not people) Thin-film space PV fabric. WPT – transmitting antenna & rectenna receiver. Telerobotic assembly and nearly autonomous operation. Second Generation Superconducting cabling - now available. Ultimately the customer will choose his delivery mode; Sunsat Corp. would control all delivery – building, owning and operating the satellite system.


Source: Ken Zweibel, NREL


We suggest legislation to provide a temporary 85% subsidy to new private or public/ private businesses, such as SunSat Corp, which are contracting for space photovoltaic arrays and 30 % subsidy to established businesses contracting for space photovoltaic arrays.


In the same way, similar learning curves, like Moore’s law, describe other dropping costs of technology with increasing volume, such as the low cost potential available to cut the cost of access to orbit if higher flight rates are achieved by reusable launch vehicles, especially private launch vehicles. A dozen other orbital space pioneers, led by Elon Musk and his reusable vehicle Falcon, are working to overcome policies and prices all but blocking new vehicle development in a dismally poor launch market outlook (due to high launch costs) with their new generation of private reusable launch vehicles.


Further legislation would provide an 85% launch subsidy to new private or public/ private businesses, such as SunSat Corp, which are contracting for space transportation and 50 % launch subsidy to established businesses contracting for space transportation. This would break the space development logjam of high launch costs.


Other reasonable requirements in this legislation might be that the launch must be to LEO or higher. Orbital transfer vehicles, to boost payloads from LEO to GSO, for example, should also qualify. New generation vehicles – some already in design – would drive the cost still lower as higher flight rates are quickly reached. Doubtless many other new space businesses would benefit. Sunsat Corp, however, would have one goal – clean baseload solar energy from GSO to power planet earth.


When reaching full production, Sunsat Corp. would use approximately 42,000 flights per year to GSO, of ten metric tons each. By comparison, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airports each logged nearly a million takeoffs and landings in 2005. Prices would quickly fall once subsidies established market volume.


Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) for an SSP system would use radio waves to carry energy. In 1975, William Brown of Raytheon first demonstrated Ground-to-Ground WPT at JPL’s Goldstone Facility.


On a larger scale there is tremendous similarity and technical overlap between SSP system designs and with some phased array systems that many companies in this room are helping to develop – such as Space Radar. Source: Raytheon Company, Space Radar Overview -


We need clean secure Space Solar Power Ground-based solar energy or wind power, has an average availability of 25-30% of a typical day due to night, rain, clouds, or wind too fast or too slow. Baseload power plants must be ready to immediately substitute for these plants in any of those conditions. Space solar power from GSO, however, is available continuously. While a typical baseload power plant is available 90% of the year, Space solar power would be available 99% of the year. There is no cleaner or more secure energy supply now available.


World oil production is at or near its peak Current world demand exceeds the supply. Once worldwide petroleum production peaks, geopolitics and market economics will result in even more significant price increases and security risks… Oil wars are not out of the question. - Energy Trends and Implications for U.S. Army, by Fournier & Westervelt, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers R & D Center, Worry now, the problem is enormous. There will be massive shortages unless we act in time. Mitigation takes a long time. Peak oil is not a theory; 33 out of 48 of the largest oil producing countries have hit peak. There is no warning for peak, as production goes up until the peak. The drop off is sudden. It will require more than a decade to transition our civilization away from our heavy dependence on oil. Nothing close to the efforts envisaged have yet begun. - Robert Hirsch, SAIC, testimony before Pentagon and U.S. Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce, & & Rising CO2 from burning fossil fuels is wreaking havoc on our global ecosystems through climate change. We need to start weaning our world off fossil fuels.


Invest in clean secure solar energy from space - Space Solar Power!! SSP requires no fuel and has no operations personnel – it is an antenna. 99% of the sunlight would pass through to working farmland underneath it. Overall SSP system efficiency is expected to be slightly over 50%. A typical transmitting antenna diameter (in space) for a 1 GW SPS system is 1 km; The rectenna on the ground would be about 4 km.


“The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to establish, in conjunction and in cooperation with other countries, as expeditiously as practicable a commercial space solar power satellite system, as part of environmentally enhanced and improved global electric power generation and networks, which will be responsive to public needs and national objectives, which will serve the growing electric power needs of the United States and other countries, and which will contribute to world peace, understanding, harmony and increased sustainable electric power generation and economic development.” - Preamble to the Sunsat Act


FOR MORE INFO... Let’s charter Sunsat Corporation!! Draft Sunsat Act legislation is available at:


FOR MORE INFO CONTACT... Darel Preble, Chair, Space Solar Power Workshop a 501(c)3 corporation Office 770.603.4883 or Mark Wallach, Chair, Space Solar Power Association, a 501(c)4 corporation Office 216.622.8344

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