Space Solar Power

Download the Sun at night. Harvest solar power in space.

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Stunning Animation on Space Based Solar Power

This is an animation describing John Mankin’s “sandwich” concept. It was originally presented at the National Press Club in Washington DC by the NSS and is part of the recent NSSO Study. You can read more at the NSS. This animation, and all derivatives are ©Mafic Studios.

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The Monster Breaking NASA’s Back

Why did Representative Dana Rohrabacher call the Space Launch System, the SLS Titanic? Because it will sink the space program. On his website he states,

The administration’s FY’13 budget includes almost $1.9 billion for continued pursuit of the SLS Titanic, a ‘monster rocket’ based on 40-year-old Space Shuttle technology in an attempt to recapture the glory days of the Apollo Saturn V. By NASA’s internal estimates, the SLS and other components won’t be ready to launch astronauts to an asteroid until 2028, after we have spent over $130 billion towards the mission.  

The three billion dollars a year (which includes approximately one billion for the Orion capsule development) allocated to the SLS by the US Congress, over the objections of NASA, is being totally wasted. This is not a partisan issue since both political parties have strong SLS supporters, in both the Senate and the House.

Key members of the Senate, who can only be called the Darth Vaders of Space, have only their own interests in mind and not the future of America. Rand Simberg exposes the culprits in his piece, “How Crony Capitalism is Killing the Space Program“.

The Space Launch System is supported primarily by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and has garnered support from others, such as Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, for whom the project promises jobs in their respective states—at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, and solid motor manufacturer ATK in Utah.

As NASA’s budget dwindles, the Senate Launch System will eat alive the very jewel of American pride – the American Space Program itself. The SLS is stealing desperately needed funding from other critically needed parts of the space program. For fiscal 2012, about 400 million dollars was cut from the Commercial Crew program to feed the monster rocket. As a partial result, NASA has postponed use of any Commercial Crew Transport vehicles until 2017 – five years away. Every astronaut seat to the space station on a Russian rocket costs us about 60 million dollars, so the SLS is delaying the time when US built commercial rockets and space vehicles can carry crews into orbit to visit the space station.

In addition, the very successful Mars exploration program has just been gutted by the president’s 2013 budget request. Mars mission teams that have been working together for decades may be disbanded. No further new Mars missions are currently budgeted. The Mars sample return mission would never happen, and other planetary missions would also be cut. Funding for SLS was not cut at all.

To make matters worse, the expected completion of the SLS is not until 2021. This leaves America stranded between five and nine more years, hitching rides to space on Russian rockets. Meanwhile China is expected to have their space station complete by 2020, leaving China the only nation with a permanent presence in space.

The SLS is too expensive to be used for space exploration. In effect, it has no significant mission that it can afford to be used to accomplish. In his November 2011 article in The Space Review, John Strickland shows that NASA could only afford to launch a single SLS with payload per year based on estimates of SLS launch costs and the anticipated manned spaceflight budget, when five to ten launches a year are needed. This would not allow a base on the Moon to be built within the short time before the previously landed equipment deteriorated on the lunar surface.

But the solution is right here, right now. We currently have two commercial vehicles almost finished and ready to take Americans into space – on American rockets and capsules. Both SpaceX and Boeing have viable solutions. 

And more American help is on its way. Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, John Carmack, Jeff Greason and Eren Ozmen–are all brilliant entrepreneurs that have leveraged the unique American system for innovation and progress. Their hard work and dedication can and will make America a leader in space. All Congress needs to do is get out of the way.

But NASA has postponed use of our Commercial Crew Transport until 2017. That’s five years away. That means we will use up two billion dollars just paying the Russians for access to the space station.

WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING INSTEAD?

We only need to continue funding the Commercial Crew Development program at 800 million dollars-the original budget requested in 2011. That’s chump change compared to the billions that will be squandered on the Space Launch System. And the new commercial space companies will provide more space related jobs as launch prices come down.

The Commercial Crew program must be fully funded so that we can launch Americans and cargos to orbit on American rockets as soon as possible. This would save about 400 million dollars each year in Russian crew launch costs.

We should plan to use existing or soon to be flown rockets for near-term projects such as lunar exploration. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy can carry virtually any NASA mission payload in the next decade at about 1/10th of the cost of using the SLS.

We cannot afford to do most of the things we want to do in space without a reusable rocket. We need an open competition at the appropriate time to build a reusable heavy lift vehicle to allow us to launch large and bulky objects and vehicles which would be too hard to assemble in space from smaller sections. SpaceX is working to develop fully reusable Falcon Rocket stages that would reduce launch costs as much as 100 times.

WHAT IS THE SLS?

SLS Stands for Space Launch System – but it is disparagingly called the Senate Launch System by many. The Congress has forced the administration to include funding for the giant rocket which NASA does not need right now, to support local space jobs in Alabama, Texas, Florida, and other states. The full scale SLS would carry 130 tons to orbit by about 2022. It would use a first stage developed from parts of the space Shuttle and would also use modified Shuttle solid rocket motors.

ADVERSE EFFECT ON PROGRESS TOWARD SPACE SOLAR POWER

Making Space Solar (SSP) is utterly dependent on reducing space launch costs. Diverting huge quantities of money to the SLS not only reduces any possible funding for SSP, but would delay the development of large reusable rockets, which could result in even lower launch costs.

ADDITIONAL INFO:

  • International relations are being damaged by the funds cut from the Mars program, as missions in 2016 and 2018 have had all funding cut, which would have allowed us to participate in cooperative missions with the Europeans and other countries.
  • There is no money to build payloads for the SLS (other than the Orion capsule, which could not be used for any practical mission by itself.) A whole set of vehicles and equipment needs to be developed and launched to do any effective exploration, and the money for this is not there due to the SLS project. – The full scale SLS (130 tons to LEO) would not be ready until about 2022 (a decade away), so payload development might not start until then.
  • There is no current requirement for the SLS within ten years, as any lunar bound vehicle or equipment can be launched by existing or soon to be launched vehicles.
  • Other companies such as SpaceX have offered to build a rocket equivalent to the SLS: a Heavy Lift Vehicle (HLV) that could lift 150 tons, to be available during the current decade and cost no more than about 2.5 billion dollars, just one year’s worth of funding for the government designed rocket.
  • The SLS would be very expensive to use because:
    • The SLS is an expendable rocket.  The main core stage, comparable to a Saturn V first stage, with a full set of rocket engines, is expendable it falls into the ocean and is lost.
    • The cost of refurbishing solid rocket boosters and casting their propellant for the SLS cannot be reduced.
    • The upper stages will not be recovered.
    • NASA will not release estimated costs of launching an SLS or the cost per pound of launching payloads.

ADDITIONAL LINKS TO STORIES COVERING THE SLS AND SPACE TRANSPORT ISSUES

Space Policy Explained – an animated space policy series by Rand Simberg
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

All space politics is local
 by Lou Friedman

Letter from Space Leaders to Congress Urging Support of NASA’s Use of Commercial Crew Services to the ISS

Space isn’t a jobs program by Rand Simberg, The Washington Times

Obama Administration Pushing Back on Congressionally Directed Rocket by Amy Svitak, Space News Staff Writer

The Senate’s rocket to nowhere by Rand Simberg

Preliminary NASA plan shows Evolved SLS vehicle is 21 years away by Chris Bergin

Internal NASA Studies Show Cheaper and Faster Alternatives to The Space Launch System
by Keith Cowing

TPIS: We Want SLS Competition, Not an ATK Earmark by Doug Messier

Fueling Stations vs. Monster Rocket by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

NASA Needs To Wake Up to Reality by Christopher C. Kraft

Expensive NASA rocket draws skepticism by Eric Berger

Nine Years of Space Policy Disaster by Rand Simberg

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As the Senate Stalls, Commercial Space Soars

While congressional paralysis prevents Americans from getting into space on American-made rockets, private industry is proving it can do what Congress cannot.

And there’s an irony.  Congressional gridlock comes in part from Republicans. And private industry’s boost is coming from Democrats–from Barak Obama’s controversial space budget.  Republicans are pushing socialized space.  And Democrats are pushing private-enterprise space.  A total reversal of the norm.

When the Space Shuttle was retired from flight in July, 2011, Americans had only one way to travel to the International Space Station: Russia’s Soyuz Rockets. Then the Soyuz rockets ran into problems and there was no way to get humans to the International Space Space Station at all.  Will private industry come to the rescue?  In Hawthorne, California, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has successfully test fired SuperDraco, a powerful new engine that will play a critical role in the company’s efforts to change the future of human spaceflight. Eight engines are attached to a Dragon capsule—a capsule capable of carrying seven passengers, or a mixture of passengers and cargo, into orbit.  Those engines allow the crew to eject and land safely to earth in an emergency.  And, says SpaceX, the rockets can also allow a Dragon capsule to land on Mars, the Moon, or at a pinpoint location on earth.

Meanwhile, Armadillo Aerospace recently launched their third STIG-A reusable, suborbital rocket from Spaceport America, a spaceport in New Mexico that was inaugurated in October, 2011.  STIG is part of Armadillo’s private space program aimed at getting humans and cargo into orbit. What’s more, Mojave, California, Spacecraft designer Xcor revealed details of a plan to achieve first flight of the Lynx Mk1 later this year and to expand the suborbital market far beyond space tourism.  By 2015, Xcor envisions a growing fleet launching into space several times a day handling commercial projects like the launch of small satellites.

And Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC), recently delivered the primary structure of its first Dream Chaser flight test vehicle to the company’s facility in Louisville, Colo., where it will be assembled.  The Dream Chaser is a shuttle-like vehicle that will carry up to seven people, or a mixture of humans and cargo, into orbit.  It will be capable of reaching the international space station and flying back to land on a runway on earth.

Most of these companies have received infusions of funding from the Obama space program.  Meanwhile Congress and the Senate continue to haggle over a massive rocket called the Space Launch System, better known by space industry insiders as the “Senatorial Launch System” and the “Rocket to Nowhere,” a rocket that some say will be far too expensive for practical use.  While politicians keep us grounded, private industry may be the American manned space program’s ticket to ride.

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Why Space?

WHY SPACE?

Why Should We Explore and Develop Space – Why is it Important?
Updated List by John K Strickland, Jr.

This provides a short, comprehensive, organized list of all the reasons that people have thought of so far. These items are not necessarily in the order of importance. Also, note some degree of overlap. The first version of this list was created in 1990 to provide background for a university debate event. The First “Why Space” Panel – 1994 – Conadien SF Worldcon – Winnepeg, Canada

(I) Short Term Economic Reasons
1. Applied Science (practical application of knowledge and skills for industry).

2. Technological Spin-offs: (computer chips, medical monitors, etc.).

3. Current Short-term Benefits: ex: – generation of high-tech aerospace jobs.

(II) Long Term Economic Reasons
4. Space Development: Use of space sites, materials & energy for Earth and Mankind’s benefit, Expansion of Human economic activity into the Solar System. These include:
A. Use of positions such as Geosynchronous Orbit, L2, etc., for communication, imaging etc.
B. Use of non-terrestrial materials and resources like moon rocks and asteroids as inputs for manufacture of oxygen, water, fuels, processed metals, and other useful products.
C. Use of solar and gravitational energy in space for use in space and on the earth and moon.
D. Construction of infrastructure in space (bases, fuel depots, refuges, etc.).
E. Use of conditions in the space environment (micro-gravity, hard vacuum) by industry or science.
F. Economic Stimulation created by a new frontier beyond the direct control of old bureaucracies & governments.
G. Getting Industry: mines, smelters, and factories off the Earth for profit and to reduce the impact on the Earth.

(III) Currently Non-Economic & Indirectly economic Reasons
5. Basic Human Drive to Explore (vicarious or direct), (Overlaps with Adventure and Tourism).

6. Adventure (Overlaps with Exploration and Tourism).

7. Acquisition of Fundamental Knowledge – basic (pure) science. This will eventually become economically valuable.

8. Settlement, Personal Emigration, Colonization and Survival in space or on planets:
A. End the “all our eggs in one basket” situation (all of the human race on just 1 planet), by creating a “backup copy” of the human race and human civilization, history, art and knowledge. (Remember, the backup copy always needs to be in a different place than the primary copy! )
B. Expansion of the human species off the planet, with growth into new habitats. (overlaps with 8A)
C. Greater diversity (type & number) of places for people to live.
D. Increase Social & Political diversity & refuges for minority groups, & Emigration – personal reasons.
E. Eventual creation of a free spacefaring civilization.

9. Biological Reasons:
A. Genome repository and backup for all Earth Species in living, frozen, or digital storage. (overlaps with 8A)
B. Spread the biosphere beyond the Earth, to Mars, etc. (with terraforming)
C. Protect Earth environment from Global Warming, Asteroid Impacts by space development
D. Provide safe locations to test nanotechnology and other potentially hazardous biological tools.
E. Increase biological diversity as organisms adapt and evolve to survive on other planets.

10. Cultural Reasons (Arts) Enrichment, Entertainment and Diversity:
A. New types of entertainment & cultural activities (art, ballet, etc.).
B. New zero gravity or low gravity sports (participate or watch).
C. Space tourism, the new experiences of space travel. (Overlaps with Adventure and Economics).

11. Improvement in Quality of Life for people on Earth. (Overlaps with Space Development).

12. Stimulate Science Education, interest and enrollment in science and engineering curricula in grade school high school and college. (This will also have an indirect economic benefit)

13. Encourage International Cooperation and/or replace warfare.

14. National Technical Prestige (can have an indirect economic benefit from a positive “brain drain”.)

15. Personal Quest for Fame and the virtual “immortality” derived from the fame.

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“Sun Power Now” Available on Kindle

Ralph Nansen’s classic book, Sun Power: The Global Solution for the Coming Energy Crisis, is now available on Kindle.

The following quote is from the author’s note on the 2012 ebook edition:

The concepts outlined in Sun Power are as valid today as they were when the book was published in 1995. Technology advancements have changed some of the details, and there are many new players in the space industry of 2012. We’ve seen the end of the United States’ Space Shuttle program and the completion of the International Space Station. We have solar panels powering our crosswalk signals and smart phones. And in this new world, solar power satellites remain as viable today—or more so—as in the 1970s when the concept was first seriously studied.

In the years since Sun Power was published, we still have not found a large-scale, global solution for our ever-increasing energy demands. As predicted in this book in 1995, alternative energy sources such as wind power, shale oil, and terra-based solar power have become a main-stream reality—but they still fall far short of meeting our global energy needs. We are in crisis.