The Pentagon has never shied from developing expensive and
controversial plans for new military technologies. Over the past few
decades it has engaged in many research programs, including the controversial
strategic defense initiative/missile shield, which is finally seeing some
measure of success according to a recent article by DailyTech's
Now the Pentagon has issued a new report that calls for a technology effort,
which may leave some scratching their heads, while raising many a cheer from
some space flight advocates.
The Pentagon seeks to eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil, including imports that come from the conflict laden Middle East -- something which it sees as a
critical "strategic energy vulnerability." In order to
eliminate this dependence, it proposes a radical
alternative energy strategy.
The Pentagon's National Security Space Office (NSSO) proposed collecting solar
rays in space and beaming it back to Earth. It stated in the report that
it feels that this is a "near-term" solution, which could be realized
Such a move it says in the report, would allow U.S. forces deployed around the
world to eliminate the long logistic chain needed to deliver fuel to vehicles
and other generators, by beaming power directly where needed. The NSSO
labels the technology Space Solar Power (SSP) and has issued a press release
(PDF) on a blog it is
publishing with the Space Frontier Foundation.
The plan also states that by developing SSP, the U.S. Armed Forces can reduce
the risk for large scale commercial development of the technology. What
this means, if the plans succeeds, is that industries may eventually see the
technology at an affordable price, while the military will pay a premium to
become the early adopter.
"The business case still doesn't close, but it's closer than ever,"
Marine Corps Lt. Col. Paul E. Damphousse of the NSSO states in the report.
Charles Miller, CEO of Constellation Services International, a space technology
start-up, and director of the Space Frontier Foundation, hopes that the
government chooses to follow the report and adopt the technology. By
installing a power plant in geostationary orbit, the government can effectively
"buy down" the risk for industry start-ups such as his company, he
Such a move could allow the U.S. and its allies to commercially eliminate oil
dependence, and meet the energy needs of the developing world, ushering in an
era of clean energy.
John Mankins, president of the Space Power Association and technical expert in
the field of SSP, had this to say on the proposal, "This is not a 50-year
solution--the kinds of things that are possible today say a truly transformational
demonstration at a large scale is achievable within this decade."
Mankins points to how solar cell efficiency has increased
from once having a goal of 20-25 percent efficiency, to having successfully
achieved efficiency rates of over 40 percent. Mankins suggests
using the International Space Station (ISS) as a possible platform to build the
power plant around. He says that Japan's Kibo module, set to launch in
the first half of next year, would be the perfect place to test exotic
materials for the solar cells, and eventually to begin mass construction of a
The panel of experts which helped publish the report suggests that the Pentagon
front the costs of the technology to industry. It also suggests
aggressive tax breaks and other policies to encourage SSP development and
Lt. Damphousse also indicated that SSP development could give a boost to other
space industries. He stated in the report that development of a reusable
launch vehicle was critical to making SSP viable.
While this report certainly indicates an interesting proposal from the
Pentagon, it is questionable how much funding or serious attention it will
receive. Then again, from some of the other expensive and outlandish
technologies such as laser
pulse and strobe
light weapons, which the Pentagon has been developing, nothing should be
ruled impossible. SSP may soon provide a new alternative energy option.
quote: Fuel is any material that is capable of releasing energy when its chemical or physical structure is altered. Fuel releases its energy either through chemical means, such as burning, or nuclear means, such as nuclear fission or nuclear fusion. An important property of a useful fuel is that its energy can be stored to be released only when needed, and that the release is controlled in such a way that the energy can be harnessed to produce work.
quote: Something consumed to produce energy, especially: 1. A material such as wood, coal, gas, or oil burned to produce heat or power. 2. Fissionable material used in a nuclear reactor. 3. Nutritive material metabolized by a living organism; food.
quote: fuel, material that can be burned or otherwise consumed to produce heat. The common fuels used in industry, transportation, and the home are burned in air. The carbon and hydrogen in fuel rapidly combine with oxygen in the air in an exothermal reaction—one that liberates heat. Most of the fuels used by industrialized nations are in the form of incompletely oxidized and decayed animal and vegetable materials, or fossil fuels, specifically coal, peat, lignite, petroleum, and natural gas. From these natural fuels other artificial ones can be derived. Coal gas, coke, water gas, and producer gas can be made using coal as the principal ingredient. Gasoline, kerosene, and fuel oil are made from petroleum. For most transportation, fuel must be in a liquid form.
quote: 1 a: a material used to produce heat or power by burning b: nutritive material c: a material from which atomic energy can be liberated especially in a reactor
quote: Kanzius is not publicly disclosing the mechanism of action at this time...
quote: > "They have proven that the flame is burning at above 3000 degrees Fahrenheit"An excellent example of the logical fallacy known as "misleading vividness". So what if the flame was burning at 30,000 degrees, or 3 million? What counts is how much energy is produced, versus how much was input.
quote: Not unless the laws of thermodynamics have suddenly been repealed. The process -- taken as a whole -- consumes energy. It doesn't produce it.
quote: You're in space. You have unlimited solar power. In the absence of gravity, a few dollars of plastic, expanded with CO2 gas and silvered with paint makes an enormous concentrative reflector. No need to even turn it into electricity...just focus it on the asteroid and use the ablative force to drive it directly.
quote: You don't need intelligent robots; you can direct all operations from the ground, using standard telemetry techniques.
quote: Untrue. As long as you put the package into a shallow aerobrake descent orbit, you'll lose only a few percent of it through ablative losses in the atmosphere. We did just this with the Apollo return capsules and, with the combination of a heat shield and a parachute to help shed a few more m/s of velocity, the descent was safe enough for manned flight.
quote: living in Saudi, i don't see much possibility of that happening (not in the near future anyway)
quote: The Pentagon seeks to eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign oil, which comes chiefly from the conflict laden Middle East
quote: What this means, if the plans succeeds, is that industries may eventually see the technology at an affordable price, while the military will pay a premium to become the early adopter.
quote: Austin, Tx is a small city (about 650,000 people) and its peak power usage is about 3,000 MW -- or some 16 times what that 100 mile stretch of road would generate. To power Austin would therefore take a stretch of road at least 1600 miles long.
quote: not to mention that winds are further generated by constant traffic flow, further increasing the available energy source.
quote: But like residents of dozens of communities where other wind-farm projects have been proposed, many Cape Codders have put aside their larger environmental sensitivities and are demanding that their home be exempt from such projects.
quote: All joking aside, Wind Mills have moving parts, this requires maintenance. If you scatter you wind mills over thousands of miles (and these miles are in mostly uninhabited places) How are you going to get skilled people to maintain these Turbines in BFE scattered to high heaven.
quote: This is for strategic and tactical military use, to start with - not commercial. Imagine being in a remote desert or jungle, and being able to call up 200 KW of power, continuously.
quote: U.S. forces deployed around the world to eliminate the long logistic chain