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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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By Sannerprojects on 9/17/2008 12:39:53 AM , Rating: 2
Lots of Space related Energy collection ideas. The Upsides are reasonably understood, not totally judging by comments. For example, collection can be 24 x 7 unlike Earth. If you went into biz with only an upside understanding, sooner or later you will fail. Here's some intolerable downsides: The transmitting satellite started wobbling and the beam accidentally irradiated (this form of energy is radiation) New York City! Or, the guides were affected by space radiation (some measured in Teravolts),efficiency decreased astronomically (pun intended), and side-lobes of energy became dangerous. Does anyone know how many satellites we lost due to 'station keeping' errors, or space induced? Our heralded space engineers goofed first time out with Hubble, and other prominent efforts confused metric! What happens if an Airplane Strays, or a military Squad has, God forbid, to intercept another 9-11 type episode, and overfly. How many generations will it take to know the chromosomal damage? Or, a weather balloon strays, flocks of birds? Has anyone modeled whether a weather system can "lense" the energy, or add pesky unwanted frequencies - this time doing a total renovation by radiation on the city of Detroit? My company is intent on commercializing ground based high efficiency renewable energy systems e.g.,next generation wind turbines, Solar Thermal which may have a starting cost of $1,000/KW, and produce $.05/kWh electricity. With production ramped up, $500/KW. I'm in favor of Space Tech, and conquest, but, I think it must be paid for by revamping Earth's industry / civilization (transfer of wealth etc) with copious, cheap, carbon free electricity/ power. All of which is within our grasp. Switch focus, or leave out finangle factors when dealing with "bleeding edge" vs leading edge technology, and you remove the oxygen resources so desparately needed for in-situ solutions. Iceland will remain the 4th richest European nation, because of its judicious tapping of its geothermal. We have a multiple of the worlds needs in renewable energy stocks, within US Territory.
Jay R CEO Sannerprojects Inc

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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