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An artist rendering of the potential orbiting solar plant. It would beam power to a massive lake-sized collector for optimal efficiency.   (Source: Kris Holland/Mafic Studios)

John C. Mankins, since leaving NASA, has spoken about his dream of space power both at various high profile news conferences. Now he has his biggest audience yet, with a historic proof-of-concept test airing on the Discovery channel.  (Source: Space Power Association)
New advances in power transmission would make Tesla proud

After decades of dormancy, interest in transmitting power wirelessly is finally heating up in the tech community.  Intel recently demoed its new wireless charging tech which it says could power its next generation chipsets.  Now, a former NASA researcher is revealing even grander plans to transform the business of power generation as we know it.

Funded by the Discovery Channel, John C. Mankins finished a four month experiment which began by collecting solar power, nothing out of the ordinary.  What happened next was relatively extraordinary, though -- he transmitted the power 92 miles (148 km) between two Hawaiian Islands. 

Terrestrial power transmission is only of interest to Mr. Mankins as a proof of concept.  Mr. Mankins' true plans are out of this world.  He envisions a network of 1,102 lb. (500 kg) satellites beaming solar power collected from panels back to Earth, satisfying all the world's power needs.

After working loyally for NASA for 25 years, he resigned after the solar program at the agency was terminated.  Now he's completed one of the more ambitious transmission experiments in history -- enough to make Nikola Tesla, the man who first envisioned wireless power transmission, proud.

The work still has a long way to go, though.  The transmission only successfully received one one-thousandth of the total power sent, a very low efficiency.  This was primarily because the receivers were so tiny.  Larger receivers, would still be rather inefficient, but could in theory, achieve much higher efficiencies.  Furthermore, the costs were relatively high at $1M USD, but Mr. Mankins believes the costs would decrease as the technology was scaled up.

In total each of the nine solar panels in the transmission assembly sent 2 watts of power.  They were originally equipped to send 20 watts, but the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration would only approve the lower power transmissions.

The encouraging results have reaffirmed Mr. Mankins' commitment to one day bring space-based solar power to the world.  His vision is that one day a fleet of satellites will beam power down to lake-sized receivers.  He enthuses, "The test was in no way fully successful, (but) I think it showed it is possible to transmit solar power quickly and affordably."

Mr. Mankins is president of ARTEMIS Innovation Management Solutions LLC, a startup which provides "strategic planning, technology assessment, and R&D management objectives" to government agencies.  He is also president of the Space Power Association.

The U.S. military is investigating similar plans to use satellite based solar power to beam power to troops on the battlefield.

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RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 9:57:22 AM , Rating: 5
> "I know I sound like a crackpot, but I swear to god that the bee population in my area has all but disappeared since wireless came along."

In my area, bees began disappearing only after the local Baskin Robbins closed down. Quite obviously these two events are related. . . clearly this dangerous lack of ice cream parlors is fatal to bees.

When you understand the problem with my statement, you'll understand the problem with yours.

RE: efficiency
By AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 10:06:36 AM , Rating: 3
As they state in statistic beginner textbooks as an example of danger of interpreting correlations without critical thinking and investigations.

There was an extremely good correlation in the 60s 70s between TV sets adoption and microwave oven adoption. None of above are causal to each other but rather due to the availability and customer spending power. But if you didn't know abut the title and see 2 graphs plotted on the same axis, you would have thought the 2 data sets are related.

RE: efficiency
By Entropy42 on 9/15/2008 10:19:15 AM , Rating: 2
There's nothing wrong with that statement. You got rid of both a crappy ice cream parlor and bees. I wish that would happen at my house.

RE: efficiency
By dl429 on 9/15/2008 12:53:31 PM , Rating: 2
This guy is like a dog with a frisbee...

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 12:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
When you understand the problem with my statement, you'll understand the problem with yours.
Yes I do, clearly bees like soft (aka dairy queen style) ice scream.

The bee thing was a joke by the way, I didn't think everyone was so opinionated on the subject.

RE: efficiency
By DeepBlue1975 on 9/15/2008 1:02:14 PM , Rating: 2
Would vote you up if I could.
Hilarious logic reasoning teaching without excess of sarcasm... Which is different to total lack of sarcasm, but I suppose the dose you used lies well within a non-life threatening treshold :D

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