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  (Source: Toho Films)
Or maybe it's just building Sol

In the 1980s, Japanese youth were delighted by the science fiction fantasy of Akira.  While mostly Earth-bound, the novel briefly touched on a technology made by Japan for World War III dubbed the satellite orbital laser (SOL) platform.
I. JAXA Dreams of Solar Power Satellites (SPS)
Now that fiction appears to be creeping closer to reality, albeit in more peaceful form (or so Japan says). 

The pie... err sun in the sky idea is one of the proposals Japan is eyeing in hopes of replacing its nuclear power facilities without bankrupting the nation.  Prior to the March 2011 tsunami, Japan generated 31 percent of its electricity via nuclear power.  
But in the aftermath of Fukushima Daiichi's (Fukushima I) disastrous partial meltdown of three reactor units, Japan is eyeing a flight from nuclear power, apparently in acknowledgement that its utilities are too incompetent or corrupt to escape easily avoidable disasters such as the Fukushima debacle

Japan Nuke protest
Nov. 2011: In Tokyo, protesters march in opposition of nuclear power. [Image Source: AP]

But it has no significant remaining fossil fuel deposits, so it is currently focused on alternative energy power generating schemes such as offshore wind and solar power.
By far the wildest of these plans is a government plan which involves putting large arrays of concentrating mirrors in orbit, converting the solar energy to microwave power, and beaming that power to Earth in a fiery beam.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has released a proposal calling for a space-based solar power station.  The plan calls for construction of a 100-kilowatt demo unit to begin by 2020.  That would be followed 2 Megawatt and 200 Megawatt semi-commercial scale units in the 2020s and 2030s.  The final goal is to have a working 1 Gigawatt demo unit actively producing power by 2040.

Solar Space Station
The 2 km x 2 km central solar panel unit would break the record for largest manmade satellite set by the International Space Station which is 1/10th of a km long. [Image Source: John MacNeill]

It probably goes without saying that such a scheme is unprecedented outside the world of science fiction, although the Pentagon as recently as 2008 made similar, but more ambiguous calls for space-based solar power development.  If completed in that timeframe, the power system could revolutionize the way mankind consumes power, potentially taking a place alongside fusion power as a driver of the future global economy.  
There is some cause to take the JAXA plan seriously.  Japan was the first nation to successfully deploy a space sail -- an exotic form of solar propulsion that was popularized by American technologists and science fiction writers.  The sail worked, and propelled a small satellite.
For Japan, which is suffering a crisis of declining population, being the first to implement such a crucial technology could provide economic salvation.  But conversely if the project slips from its impressive roadmap and/or proves a costly boondoggle, it could be a further burden on a back of a nation that expects its working age population to fall in half over the next 90 years.
II. Roots of Satellite Solar Were Made in the USA
While Japan wants to make Tokyo the space solar power capital of the world, the roots of this technology lie in a pair of American innovators.
American aerospace engineer Peter Glaser was the first to propose that a solar power satellite (SPS) system with power transmission could be a viable power generation scheme.  

Peter Glaser
Peter Glaser (far left on the left image; left on the right image) is the American forefather of satellite solar. [Image Source: MIT Lib. (L); (R)]

Among the benefits he outlined in a 1968 paper in Science -- the first on the topic -- were that space-based solar would be immune to weather-based outages (with the right transmission technology), would be subject to much stronger solar rays, and would take up far less land area.

Solar satellite
The original design for a solar power satellite, published by Peter Glaser. [Image Source: Science]

In the 1960s, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a top defense contractor, Raytheon Comp. (RTN), began toying with wireless power harvesting and the idea of space-based solar collection.  Raytheon built a helicopter capable of flying on microwave power, which it demoed in 1964.  By 1975, an end-to-end conversion efficiency of 54% was demonstrated.
But ultimately the project was deemed too costly and shelved.  At the time the state of global solar panel and electronics was to nascent to make the project a financially compelling alternative to ground based solutions like wind turbines.
Today the progress of technology -- via ever more efficient solar panel efficiencies and parabolic generation technologies -- may be sufficient to make SPS finally worth doing.
III. Microwaves -- the Key to Solar When the "Sun Don't Shine"
And researchers think they finally have the answer to a decades old question of what transmission technology to use.  For decades a high power laser beam -- which would have a short wavelength in the 1-µm range -- was considered a leading candidate, but it was eventually cast aside as water vapor molecules in clouds would block it.
Instead, researchers turned to perhaps the oldest well-researched wireless electric power transmission technology -- microwave generation.  Nikola Tesla in 1901 began building the 57-foot Wardenclyffe tower to transmit electricity via microwaves to airships in the New York City airspace.  The tower was housed on Shoreham, a town in New York’s Long Island.
The scheme might have worked, but in beginning in 1903 Tesla suffered a string of financial setbacks that ultimate scuttled the 57-foot tower.  First, principle funder J. P. Morgan (cofounder of J.P. Morgan Chase & Comp. (JPM)) abandoned the project, after finding out that Mr. Tesla was really planning to use it for wireless power transmission (it's advertised purpose that he sold Mr. Morgan and other investors on was providing media and telephone signal transmission).
At the same time several of Tesla's key patents expired, drastically reducing the royalty income that he had been using to fund his research.

Wardenclyffe demolition
Wardenclyffe Tower was demolished, but its legacy lives on. [Image Source: The Oatmeal]

Tesla ultimately lost ownership of the tower and its wireless power transmission technology was never finished.  During World War I the tower was wiped off the island on orders of the U.S. government, who reportedly feared it would be used a spotting landmark for German submarines.  Today the tower site is home to a new museum thanks to The Oatmeal.
But Tesla's microwave power transmission technology has provided JAXA designers with a way of skirting weather issues.
IV. The World's Biggest Manmade Satellite
The orbital SPS system would transmit microwave power down to Earth in a beam with a wavelength between 5 and 10 centimeters.  At such a wavelength the beam would be able to penetrate clouds, ensuring continuous power access.
The signal would likely operate in the 1-10 Gigahertz range given the advantages in antenna size and minimization of atmospheric attenuation.  The question is what bands in this region are applicable under the internationally agreed upon so-called "ISM" (industrial, scientific, and medical) band.  The 2.45 and 5.8 GHz bands are currently ISM-reserved.  The higher the frequency the smaller the antenna, so JAXA researchers are primarily targeting the 5.8 GHz band.

Linksys router
If the station uses the 5.8 GHz band, its antennas would likely be smaller than the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi antennas. [Image Source: Internet Routers Blog]

Under the current plan, a two-sided 2 kilometer x 2 kilometer frame with over 11 million 0.6 meter x 0.6 meter panels would be used.  These panels would be deployed with high efficiency thin film solar cells on the top, hooked up to phase controllers and power management systems.  Each panel would produce around 400 watts of power. The bottom of the panel is dubbed the "rectenna".  It features power amplifiers and hundreds of tiny Gigahertz antennas.  Scientists are aiming to produce prototypes capable of producing 350 watts of power (an 87.5 percent conversion efficiency on that end).
When it comes to the amplifiers used to create the microwaves to beam to Earth, researchers are examining two possibilities -- vacuum tubes (e.g. magnetrons, klystrons, or traveling wave tubes) and semiconductor amplifiers.  

Vacuum tubes
Vacuum tubes are one possibility for driving the amps. [Image Source: Classix Audio]

The latter is cheaper and more established, but limited at around 70 percent efficiency (still pretty good).  Semiconductor amplifiers are still pretty expensive, but they can reach higher efficiencies and they are dropping relatively quickly in cost.  

Alternatively, the finished station could make use of up to 100 million 10-watt GaN semiconductor amplifier chips. [Image Source: GaN Systems]

New amplifying circuits based on exotic semiconductors such as gallium nitride are showing great promise.  The plan could use as many as 100 million 10-watt semiconductor amplifiers, if that approach is adopted.
V. Gravity Gradient Stabilization and Retrodirective Beam Control Prove Crucial
Scientists are proposing a simpler early design that leverages the laws of physics to avoid using fuel.  The downside to this approach is that the panel would be stuck in a static angle incident the sun, an angle that at times would be less efficient.  To remedy this, JAXA hopes to later add large concentrating mirrors that orient themselves around the panel, directing sun at optimal angles onto it.
The first step -- the static panel -- includes a 10 kilometer long tethering electrical cable would link the massive panel to a smaller electronics control unit in higher orbit.  That unit would coordinate the satellite and the ground receiver.  During power transmission the ground station would beam up a pilot signal, and the rectenna would respond by tuning its antenna using a technology known as retrodirective beam control.
The idea of retrodirective beam control is that the satellite will likely not be precisely aligned with the ground station given the centrifugal and gravitation forces tugging it back and forth.  By detecting the pilot signal, the control electronics of the rectenna will determine the phase across its face.  It will then use this to produce a waveform optimized signal to beam down to Earth, allowing for more precise, on-the-fly directional targeting of the receiver site. Panels would be arranged in 2x2 groupings to allow for adjustment.

JAXA solar station
The station will eventually be supplemented with parabolic concentrators. [Image Source: JAXA]

The brains of the rectenna’s tuning also serve a vital second purpose.  It would also act as a counterweight, in a sort of tug of war between the Earth's centrifugal force and the gravity on the lower panel satellite.  This technique is known as gravity gradient stabilization and it would allow the satellite to ditch its active attitude-control system, saving millions of dollars in fuel costs.
The signal would be beamed down to a small manmade island in Tokyo Bay.  The island would be covered with roughly 5 billion rectifying antennas, which would convert the microwave power to DC current.  An AC-to-DC converter would then transform the DC current to alternating current and send it via submarine cable to shore.

JAXA solar station
The receiver station will be built on a manmade island in Tokyo Harbor. [Image Source: JAXA]

Key objectives for the ground unit will be design efficient antennas to harvest the microwave energy as DC current and perfecting the art of the pilot signal.  In laboratory experiments, researchers have achieved up to 80 percent efficiency at such wavelengths for a transmitter/receiver scheme.  JAXA is aiming for something near that by the time the technology is fully commercialized.
VI. Parabolic Mirrors, Formation Flying
Eventually Japan would look to deploy helper parabolic mirror panels that would perform formation flying, concentrating power on the panel and increasing its efficiency.  Anyone who's played the game Dead Space 2 will get the basic concept here as the fictional Titan space station used a similar scheme, which acts as an in-game puzzle.
JAXA Professor Emeritus Susumu Sasaki in a post to IEEE Spectrum writes

Space agencies have some experience with formation flying, most notably in the docking maneuvers performed at the International Space Station, but coordinating a formation flight involving kilometer-scale structures is a big step from today’s docking procedures.

We would also have to make several other breakthroughs before this advanced type of SPS could be built.  We’d need very light materials for the mirror structures to allow for the formation flight, as well as extremely high-voltage power transmission cables that could channel the power from the solar panels to the transmission unit with minimal resistive losses. Such technologies would take years to develop, so if one or more nations do embark on a long-term project to exploit space-based solar power, they may employ a two-phase program that begins with the basic model while researchers work on the technologies that will allow for next-generation systems.

Formation flying is a hot topic in space exploration right now, but he's right, coordinating kilometer-size concentrators would be daunting task.

Whichever scheme is adopted, the plan is to place the satellite(s) in geosynchronous (GEO) orbit 36,000 km above the Earth.  This would place them in the same orbit as most communications satellites, and allow for a steady, predictable, and stable orbit.

One side note -- many may be concerned about the health risks of the microwave power solution -- particularly given how much negligence the Japanese power industry showed in the Fukushima incident.  

Mr. Susumu does a good job clarifying this.  He points out that at the center of the beam the radiation levels will only be 1 kW/m^2.  While that's above the regulatory threshold of 10 W/m^2, it's not even powerful enough to heat your coffee, must less roast man or beast, he explains.

The beam wouldn't even be powerful enough to heat coffee, so with basic protective equipment it should be safe for maintenance workers. [Image Source: StrangeCosmos]

Simple protective equipment should be sufficient to protect workers.  By 2 km from the site, radiation levels will have dropped to within the regulatory thresholds.

VII. JAXA's Space Solar Roadmap

The roadmap of the trial is already coalescing:
  • 2008
    • Microwave power transmission is performed
    • Signal is sent 150 km (Earth-to-Earth) from Maui to the main Hawaiian Island.
    • Private, non-JAXA related, but of use to prove concept
    • Sponsored by the Discovery Channel
    • Filmed as part of a special
    • Led by NASA researcher John Mankins.
    • Sent 20 watts of power, produced by Maui solar panels
    • Received less an 1 microwatt (< 0.000005% efficient), but did receive some power
    • Relatively inefficient
  • 2014 (this year)
    • Earthbound testing of microwave beams with retrodirectional beam control
    • Expected to be dramatically more efficient
    • 50 meter transmission tests
    • 1600 watts with be sent via a 4-panel test unit
    • 350 watts will be received  (21.9% efficient)
    • Implemented by JAXA and Japan Space Systems
  • 2018
    • Low earth orbit (LEO) testing using a space-based SPS demo unit
    • Will confirm or deny JAXA's hope that the ionosphere's charged high-energy particles (atmospheric plasma) won't intefere with the beam
    • Will also be used to gauge and mitigate any interference with ground based electronics
  • 2020 
    • Begin construction on artificial island in Tokyo Bay to act a reception site
    • Construct and launch a 100 kilowatt semi-commercial test unit.
  • 2020-2035
    • Construct 2 Megawatt and 20 Megawatt semi-commercial test units
    • Potentially construct more coastal receiver islands
    • Improve efficiency of satellite components
    • Solar panels
    • Amplifiers
    • Antennas
    • Signal control
    • Receiers/DC-Converters
  • 2035-2039
    • Build and launch a 1 Gigawatt-capable single-panel solution
Mr. Susumu acknowledges that the project is complex and its goals seem almost impossible.  But with great risk, comes great reward, he says, remarking:

It would be difficult and expensive, but the payoff would be immense, and not just in economic terms. Throughout human history, the introduction of each new energy source—beginning with firewood, and moving on through coal, oil, gas, and nuclear power—has caused a revolution in our way of living. If humanity truly embraces space-based solar power, a ring of satellites in orbit could provide nearly unlimited energy, ending the biggest conflicts over Earth’s energy resources. As we place more of the machinery of daily life in space, we’ll begin to create a prosperous and peaceful civilization beyond Earth’s surface.

All eyes will be on Japan, particularly in 2018 and 2020 when it starts to test these technologies in space.  If it succeeds mankind may have punched its ticket to nearly free power from the Sun.

Source: IEEE Spectrum

Comments     Threshold

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By Scootie on 5/8/2014 4:58:11 PM , Rating: 1
Power, even if it comes from the Sun will never be free nor will drive down it's monthly bill.

RE: Free
By Jeffk464 on 5/8/2014 5:27:10 PM , Rating: 4
Also its not renewable, I think I read that the sun will only last another 4 billion years or so.

RE: Free
By Guspaz on 5/8/2014 5:48:34 PM , Rating: 2
What do you mean? That it will never be free is obvious, because photo-voltaic panels and batteries will never be free... But the cost of both of those decreases over time, and in many places the cost of them over time has already dropped below that of the local power company.

RE: Free
By Shig on 5/8/2014 8:51:56 PM , Rating: 2
Solid state technology is always going to beat mechanical technology in the long run.

I just don't understand the fixation on space. For the billions of dollars it takes to put things into space Japan could probably build enough PV panels and batteries to have a significant impact on their grid.

RE: Free
By Guspaz on 5/8/2014 9:48:18 PM , Rating: 1
What does that have to do with my post?

RE: Free
By Samus on 5/9/2014 1:03:56 AM , Rating: 3
The fixation on space is simply because a solar panel up there is around 500% more efficient than it is down here... Our atmosphere keeps too much of the "good stuff" out.

RE: Free
By Digimonkey on 5/9/2014 9:29:26 AM , Rating: 3
This and the fact that Japan doesn't have a lot of land to dedicate to huge solar farms. I think Japan trying this makes complete sense when considering all the factors involved.

RE: Free
By maugrimtr on 5/14/2014 8:50:16 AM , Rating: 2
They could always look into a giant array at sea? A 10km square barge should do the trick ;).

The main problem with the proposal, as with all such proposals, is construction. How does one construct something kilometers in length - in space? It's all fine pointing at Sci-Fi movies with massive space stations, but we've only ever built a few tiny temporary space stations (even the ISS is due to be burned up over the Pacific in the 2020s, earlier if you believe Russia's most recent talk about abandoning it before the end of this decade).

Once it's built, who's going to maintain it? And while the article talks about fancy rare earth semiconductors for amplifying microwaves, have these amazing new designs ever been tested in a hard vacuum with extreme levels of radiation and a Sun that regularly chucks parts of itself at us (coronal mass ejections or CMEs) which play havok on unshielded electronics and still kill satelites on occasion.

I would have though that DT, as a tech site, would include something on these sorts of obvious concerns and if addressed in the the current proposals.

RE: Free
By Mint on 5/9/2014 12:29:09 PM , Rating: 2
It's not the atmosphere that makes the biggest difference. That doesn't even take away 1/3rd of the solar energy. It's the fact that a satellite stays in the sun for over 20 hours per day. 500% is only true compared to fixed position PV.

But I don't know how anyone thinks we can get so many reflectors and panels up there cheap enough. Even if SpaceX can miraculously get costs down to $1000/kg for geosynchronous orbit, can we really collect, say, 3m^2 of sunlight per kg to generate 1kW? That's a roughly 100-fold weight reduction.

You need some really radical developments to get even close to the cost of ground-based solar, even including the cost of batteries for the latter.

RE: Free
By DennisB on 5/9/2014 2:10:17 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe with this "new" and light organic photovoltaic foil cells

The other important problem is how long can it operate without needing maintenance? Also remember all the space junk flying around.

RE: Free
By niva on 5/12/2014 1:51:56 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think the real issue with this plan is it's ability to work and actually generate power or even the cost.

The biggest hurdles they have to face is space junk, and how they can protect these giant structures from the crap we've put out there as well as MMOD.

The next thing they need to worry about is accidents. What happens when someone points that microwave beam at a city? Maybe it's not an accident at all, can you convince the rest of the world that having this weapon in space is a good and friendly idea? They're doing this because of the Fukushima plant accident, rather than making nuclear more safe they're just jumping ship.

I'd rather they invest the money into more fusion research and better fission nuclear plants. But hey, that's just me.

only one thinking it...
By shineLS7 on 5/8/2014 7:30:13 PM , Rating: 3
Ion Cannon, Ready....

I guess I was the only one thinking it...

RE: only one thinking it...
By marvdmartian on 5/9/2014 7:44:14 AM , Rating: 5
Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of:

"Up next in the news, Tokyo suffers kilometer-wide swath of death and destruction, when solar generation satellite malfunctions. Opponents of technology demanding return of nuclear power."

RE: only one thinking it...
By Qapa on 5/10/2014 3:50:48 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but on a more serious note... really scary, as a malfunction on this could potentially "shoot" this radiation to anyone on the planet.

I really hope they either don't do this, or that they put layers of security up to the ridiculous point... and even then, I'm scared, but what the hell I can't really do anything about it.

Just would prefer other solutions... and if they want to go to space, there is supposed to exist something that can be mined on the moon (can't really remember what, from a documentary).

RE: only one thinking it...
By marvdmartian on 5/13/2014 7:26:13 AM , Rating: 4
Likely, any satellite like this would have to be in a geosynchronous orbit. Meaning, if it's not constantly in space above its receiving station, it's pretty useless.

That would preclude any erroneous beaming toward other nations, I would imagine. ;)

That documentary wasn't titled "Space 1999", was it? LOL

Declining population crisis
By chmilz on 5/9/14, Rating: 0
RE: Declining population crisis
By Solandri on 5/9/2014 1:26:54 AM , Rating: 2
The developed nations are all at or close to zero population growth. Nearly all of the world's population growth is happening in undeveloped countries.

When people have high quality of life, decent jobs, and plenty of time and money to do what they want, instead of scrape by to survive, they have fewer babies. The key to arresting world population growth is to modernize and industrialize the undeveloped world. Reducing population in the developed countries is counter-productive, as you'd be decreasing the productivity of the countries with the resources to do something about overpopulation, while allowing the countries where populations are burgeoning to become a larger percentage of the global population.

RE: Declining population crisis
By lagomorpha on 5/9/14, Rating: -1
RE: Declining population crisis
By kattanna on 5/9/2014 11:20:04 AM , Rating: 4
You have that backward.

no.. you do.

you cannot FORCE such a thing if you want to have any meaningful long term effects

but it does happen naturally once you start to educate the females that they can be more then baby making machines, increase their standard of living, and help them move from an agricultural base to an industrial base, they will WANT to have fewer children. its a natural thing that happens, and can be seen happening today

RE: Declining population crisis
By Solandri on 5/10/2014 3:50:19 AM , Rating: 4
Close. What happens is when you run a farm, more kids means more hands to help run the farm. Consequently agricultural societies tend to have a lot of children per couple. It also means when you grow old and decrepit, you have lots of offspring to take care of you.

When you start industrializing, the increased productivity improves the standard of living. (Standard of living only increases when the productivity per person increases. Having fewer babies makes no difference to standard of living because it doesn't change the productivity per person.) There's less pressure to have babies to help do your work and take care of you in retirement.

The UN understands this. If you look at their assistance programs for developing nations, it's not just water, food, and medical aid. They're very adamant about economic and legal assistance to help the country develop a functioning modern economy and infrastructure.

RE: Declining population crisis
By lagomorpha on 5/10/2014 6:52:51 AM , Rating: 2
(Standard of living only increases when the productivity per person increases. Having fewer babies makes no difference to standard of living because it doesn't change the productivity per person.)

Close. Having fewer babies does not change the productivity per person but it does reduce income disparity. Having a surplus of labor (too many babies) means the equilibrium value of wages is lower compared to the equivalent nation with lower birth rates. In the nation with lower birth rates the working class will receive a larger portion of their productivity in wages.

RE: Declining population crisis
By Mint on 5/10/2014 2:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
Buddy, you're wrong and have been proven wrong again and again. Education, health, and development come first, and lower birth rates follow.

People like you use this fallacy (of population needing to be controlled first) as a lame excuse to do nothing.

It's a joke
By Guspaz on 5/8/2014 5:47:14 PM , Rating: 2
Orbital solar power is, and probably always will be, a fantasy. They do get you extra efficiency compared to ground-based solar energy, but not enough to offset the enormous cost of getting them into orbit. The cost of orbital launches would have to shrink by a factor of a thousand to make it cheaper than ground-based solar, and even if that might happen some day, it's a VERY long way off.

RE: It's a joke
By kwrzesien on 5/9/2014 10:16:42 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like to see that analysis of how long it takes the orbital facility to pay-back the energy consumed to launch it into space, both in terms of Joules and Dollars. Maybe they should just burn rocket fuel in a turbine to generate electricity if they have so much of it.

RE: It's a joke
By Mint on 5/11/2014 10:17:10 AM , Rating: 2
I've found a few such analyses, and basically if you can make a device light enough to make space-based solar eventually economical, then the energy payback will be pretty quick also.

Geostationary orbit theoretically needs about 58MJ/kg, but rockets carry a few percent of their weight as payload, so we can estimate 1GJ of rocket energy per kg.

If this scheme is to work, you'll need a solar array (possibly with lightweight concentrating reflectors) that gives you a minimum of 100W/kg (and then pray SpaceX can put it into space for under $1000/kg).

It only takes 4 months for 100W to generate 1GJ.

The real battles for this technology is launch cost and efficiency of long distance microwave energy transmission.

By Strunf on 5/9/2014 7:43:39 AM , Rating: 2
The UN released a few days ago a study stating that there was no environmental or health problems related to the Fukushima accident... actually the only problems were related to the fact people overreact what induces stress and other health problems.

I wonder if there's a big lobby behind this irrational anti-nuclear movement...

RE: Fukushima
By roykahn on 5/13/2014 7:16:38 AM , Rating: 2
What a remarkably untrue comment! Claiming that "there was no environmental or health problems" is absolutely unbelievable. Your attitude is shocking and I'm also shocked how your comment has been unchallenged. Yes, I realize I'm late with my reply.

RE: Fukushima
By Strunf on 5/14/2014 8:46:03 AM , Rating: 2
You wouldn't find it shocking if you knew what the report says and what rational people think.
The oceans are full of radioactive elements already and for a few exceptions there's no difference between man made radioactive elements and natural occurring ones. If you put into perspective that oceans occupy like 2/3 of the earth surface you get to the same conclusions of that report...

not my iced coffee!!
By BillyBatson on 5/8/2014 7:09:33 PM , Rating: 2
The idea seems sounds but there are a lot of questions. If many counties joined in on this there will be a lot more objects in orbit that happen to be bigger than ever before. How will it effect aircraft will there is no fly zones around beams and if so why would that distance be. What is the japanese decide to use the beam to warm up my mcdonalds iced coffee? so many questions...

By Cluebat on 5/9/2014 9:01:24 AM , Rating: 2
They sound like they will be very sensitive to CMEs or EMPs. I would not want them to become the primary power sources for critical infrastructure unless they had a reliable backup system.

Ambitious at the very least.
By Griffinhart on 5/9/2014 11:27:16 AM , Rating: 2
I have no idea if it's feasible or possible, but they did set the bar very high. Considering the Largest land based solar farms are less than 500MW and take up 9 square miles, There are some pretty massive hurtles to be able to create, launch, set up and transmit power from a spaced based 1GW solar farm.

Fusion will be key
By TimberJon on 5/9/2014 12:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
Fusion is on the ground though, with no risk of scratched mirrors or with maintenance issues that would be difficult and costly to get to. Unless fusion reactors are miniaturized enough to put in a ship that can rip on up there.

They will likely be fine-tuning fusion for commercial use and grid-seeding by the end of 2035. So the comment "alongside fusion power" is accurate and I thank Mick for not forgetting to mention fusion, even if the article he linked to was kind of looking down on the recent accomplishments in fusion research.

Check it:

very ignorant
By poohbear on 5/13/2014 2:58:26 AM , Rating: 2
how can the author write "easily avoidable disasters such as the fukushima ...." How on earth was that "easily avoidable"???? it was an earthquake with thousands of aftershocks and a massive tsunami that killed thousands, can you really be that heartless and ignorant?

Orbital garbage
By Technado on 5/16/2014 8:32:20 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe someone mentioned this, but the amount of orbital garbage out there is going to be a serious problem for this project.

Anything with that much surface area and mass is going to be tricky to maneuver evasively, like they are commonly forced to do with the ISS.

Won't Happen
By Reclaimer77 on 5/8/2014 7:20:11 PM , Rating: 1
Japan's economy seem to perpetually swing from horrible to horribler.

So uhhh yeah, unless this is a huge multi-national effort, I can't see this happening. Especially on a timetable SO long, given how many swings in political direction happen.

stupid on stupid
By Shadowmaster625 on 5/9/2014 8:28:12 AM , Rating: 1
If you think getting hit with a few thousand becquerels is bad, just wait until that huge microwave transmitter "somehow" veers off target and starts radiating japanese children. Imagine if a terrorist group managed to hack into the control system on that thing and was able to aim it wherever they wanted.... the stupid burns more than 8 trillion becquerels.

Sounds Great
By Ristogod on 5/8/14, Rating: -1
RE: Sounds Great
By mackx on 5/8/2014 5:09:57 PM , Rating: 5

the engineers did a good job. it was meant to be shut down before the tsunami happened. they also wanted (iirc) a larger wall as well as a backup generator in there. the penny pinchers screwed the pooch.

if they've learned their lesson and listen to the guys who know what they're talking about then it might be ok

of course, companies and govs have short memories

RE: Sounds Great
By Jeffk464 on 5/8/2014 5:25:47 PM , Rating: 1
Pretty sure the Fukushima plant was built by GE. Funny thing is the San Onofre plant was built by Mitsubishi.

RE: Sounds Great
By SunLord on 5/8/2014 8:28:34 PM , Rating: 2
The disaster and how it unfolded had less to do with the old GE design which survived the earthquake mostly intact and likely would of been able shut down with far less issues if not for the fact that TEPCO skimped on building a proper seawall able to survive a major tsunami this is what caused the disaster. The disaster has less to do with the nuclear power plant and more to do with bad site planning and skimping on a proper seawall

"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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