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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 menace on 9/15/2008 3:46:15 PM , Rating: 3
Just to clarify, I am much more worried about the fact that brain cancer is now officially the number one cancer killer in children (leukemia was the former)

Really? Can you tell us your source?

According to American Cancer Society, leukemia is stil the #1 form of childhood cancer (33%) followed by brain cancer (21%). Incidence of brain cancer in children is 3 in 100,000 children. This compares to brain cancer incidence of 15-20 in 100,000 for whole US population.

You wouldn't expect a child to have lung cancer or colon cancer or breast cancer or prostate cancer or skin cancer. So that makes brain cancer show up high on the list of childhood cancers. The percentage seems large but that is because total incidence of all cancers for children is relatively low (15 in 100,000).

I haven't found evidence of any studies to suggest that the incidence of brain cancer in children has signficantly risen during the wireless device age. But still I would not allow a child under 12 to possess one (or even under 16 for that matter), because of the (ir)responsibility factor and adverse impact on social development.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/15/2008 3:56:15 PM , Rating: 3
> "According to American Cancer Society, leukemia is stil the #1 form of childhood cancer (33%) ..."

Wait a minute. . . don't children tend to consume more ice cream also? I smell a definite correlation here between childhold cancer, ice cream parlors, and the disappearance of bees.

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/16/2008 10:26:34 AM , Rating: 2
... and yet, the same kind of dismissive arguement could be applied to whatever IS the actual cause, so it serves no useful purpose to take such an attitude. Quite a few facts begin as mere speculation, there's no useful purpose in trying to compare something reasonable with something unreasonable.

RE: efficiency
By masher2 on 9/16/2008 12:22:48 PM , Rating: 2
> "so it serves no useful purpose to take such an attitude"

Of course it does. Any scientist, and even lay people, should always maintain a healthy skepticism. Tremendous harm has come from people gullibly accepting a chance correlation as a casual relationship.

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/25/2008 2:19:52 PM , Rating: 2
You don't have to be gullible to wait for more information before forming doubt. There's a middle ground where one remains open to further scrutiny instead of clinging to presupposed concepts.

RE: efficiency
By mindless1 on 9/16/2008 10:24:03 AM , Rating: 2
Being able to better communicate will have an adverse impact on social development? Absolutely not, while the day might not be here yet, there will come a day when not having a cell phone is a handicap that seriously impedes social development. That day might already be here.

You might say "oh but I didn't have one when I was a kid", and that wouldn't matter at all because social development is not an absolute, it's about engaging in communication with one's peers in the same way that they do, not how you /did/.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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