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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 AnnihilatorX on 9/15/2008 10:36:16 AM , Rating: 2
To be honest I don't think wireless is the culprit in disappearing bees.

The fact that colony collapse disorder:
of bee colonies pretty much around the US and Europe. With such wide geological area affected I don't see any reason to believe the CCD is affected anything by wireless.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 10:59:18 AM , Rating: 3
Not to mention that CCD is affecting colonies dozens of miles from any cell phone tower, in places where signal strength is essentially nonexistent.

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 1:10:12 PM , Rating: 2
However, late in the year 2006 and in early 2007 the rate of attrition was alleged to have reached new proportions, and the term "Colony Collapse Disorder" was proposed to describe this sudden rash of disappearances.[1]
Obviously you make a good point, but the term CCD was only came to light after the situation was worse than it ever was.

And masher, your statement about bees not being near towers is just plain untrue. Farm land is a popular choice for cell phone towers, especially outside of large cities, no obstruction, cheaper to buy. I also get cell phone access far up north, in fact even my cottage which is about 500km from the closest city above 10k has cell phone towers.

Not that I actually believe that this is the reason, but you can not totally discount it. Just the fact that it is happening on a global scale kind of discounts many theories involving parasites or pesticides just because these are not regional events. The way I see it, wireless an cell phone towers causing bee's to die is just as plausible as a bee parasite pandemic, or a pesticide with unknown side effects being used everywhere, (if CCD is happening world around, then the same chemicals would also have to be used world around).

RE: efficiency
By Solandri on 9/15/2008 1:21:33 PM , Rating: 2
And masher, your statement about bees not being near towers is just plain untrue. Farm land is a popular choice for cell phone towers, especially outside of large cities, no obstruction, cheaper to buy.

Most of the rural U.S. still has no digital cell phone coverage. The digital networks are concentrated around population centers and highways. There are still analog towers as a fallback, but almost nobody uses them nowadays and most phones no longer have analog capability.

RE: efficiency
By omnicronx on 9/15/2008 1:52:41 PM , Rating: 1
Thats just sprint..

The Verizon digital(not analogue) network is available in what looks to be over 75% of the States..

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 3:51:59 PM , Rating: 3
> "And masher, your statement about bees not being near towers is just plain untrue"

That's not quite what I said. Bees are often near towers. They are often not near them, though. In the West, and in many less developed nations, there are vast tracts of lands which have bee colonies, but no cell phone towers whatsoever.

The leap to suspect an anthropogenic cause is premature. It's far more likely some natural sort of pest or virus. Consider the Chestnut Blight, for instance, that in just a few decades, killed some five billion trees, and nearly extincted the entire genus.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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