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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 Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 10:07:23 AM , Rating: 2
The scary part is this might be the cause. From what I have seen, some people say these radio waves mess with the bee's ability to redirect back to the hive, causing the hive to die. Hopefully they check into this kind of thing, cause I kinda like being able to eat fruits and vegetables...

But, the idea behind the transmission of energy was as tight a wave as possible, going directly from a satellite to a ground station, where there would likely be very little run off, and most likely not many concentrations of bees.

From what I gather, I can't find any evidence that radio waves damage people, but then again, who knows how hard they have really pushed to find out. I don't think the high frequency waves will be an issue though, since 2.4GHZ waves attenuate heavily through living creatures as it is, I'm sure anything in the 5.8GHZ range would disperse quickly just by touching clothing. 900MHZ and similar range waves, that would be interesting to see the research.


RE: efficiency
By menace on 9/15/2008 2:59:41 PM , Rating: 2
For all the myriad of (mostly wasteful) USDA study grants, surely there has been at least one that has studied the effects of various types of electromagnetic fields on bee navigation. If they found anything we would have heard about it.


RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 3:19:42 PM , Rating: 2
Quite possible, but I would still like to see the results, just for curiosity's sake.

http://www.setiai.com/archives/000064.html

Magnetic fields are used for their internal clock. Not saying it for sure causes it, not even saying there is a good chance, just makes you wonder.


RE: efficiency
By masher2 (blog) on 9/15/2008 3:45:43 PM , Rating: 2
Of course, there's a vast difference between magnetic fields and electromagnetic fields. . . which is why shining a light on a compass doesn't cause it to veer wildly.


RE: efficiency
By Gzus666 on 9/15/2008 4:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed, but neither of us research in that field. On top of that, a bee is quite a bit different than a compass, and light is different than radio waves, while less so than the previous comparison. All I desire is to see the research on it, as I am curious, nothing more. I won't claim to know what it does for sure, but they surely need to find out why bees are ditching, cause that is a problem of worldly proportions.


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