Another painting (I believe from Rockwell) showing a Shuttle Orbiter floating next to a giant Solar Power Satellite. Artwork likely from the late 1970′s. While most SPS concepts called for launching componants with giant boosters and/or flinging aluminum from the surface fo the moon with magnetic catapults, there were also ideas about building SPS demonstrators using Shuttles and Shuttle Derived launch vehicles. The SPS’s would be built in low Earth orbit, so that the Shuttle could get to them, then dragged to much higher orbits, such as geosynchronous. This was generally proposed to be accomplished by means of ion-engine powered thruster units which would be bolted to the SPS, using energy generated by the SPS’s solar cells.

While a slick idea, ion engines are low thrust, thus the SPS would move on a slow outward spiral taking weeks or months to get from LEO to GEO. Not really a problem, except for one detail: the Van Allen radiation belts. Passing quickly through the belts presents no real problem. But if you lurk there long enough, the ionizing radiation can cause damange to fine integrated circuits… and solar cells. Take too long going through, and you might wind up with a big aluminum piece of garbage floating dead’r'n disco in the radiation belts.

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  • http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/ Canada Guy

    Space based solar power is an unrealistic solution. Not just because of the complexity and funding, but because so much energy and resources are required, compared to what you get back. We also need solutions today, not 20-50 years in the future. By then, there won’t be much of a world left.

    http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/2009/09/space-based-solar-power.html

  • admin

    > We also need solutions today

    We have them. They’re called “nukes.” Any politician who stands in the way of new nuclear powerplants is committing an act of treason. Just that simple.

  • http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/ Canada Guy

    Admin, the problem with nuclear plants today doesn’t seem to be the government getting in the way, but rather people complaining that the government isn’t subsidizing it. See here:

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/28/toshiba-san-antonio-nuclear-power-plant-expensive-cost/

    Plans for nukes are being shelved or reconsidered in many places because of escalating costs (including in my province of Ontario.)

    The free market seems to have difficulty in providing nuclear power. Note that conservation and efficiency seem to be able to achieve much greater emissions reduction at a much lower cost.

  • admin

    Didn;t get very far in reading your link: “Breaking: Toshiba tells San Antonio its new twin $13 billion nukes will cost $4 billion more! The city balks. This looks like a job for clean energy.”

    Sorry, but nuclear *is* clean energy. When sucha fundamental error is made in the *title* of an article, there is little hope for accuracy in the rest of the article.

    > The free market seems to have difficulty in providing nuclear power.

    Thanks to excessive burdens place on it by decades of lies and hysterics by the anti-nuclear movement. But elsewhere in the world, including other nations and the US Navy, nuclear reactors seem to be easy to make. But no matter how cheap some structure you’re tryign to build might be, when you’re constantly having mortars lobbed at you by luddiets and lawyers, your prices will go up. When the luddites and lawyers win and cause you to stop work for *decades,* restartign the process will be somewhat chaotic and likely to be more expensive than expected. When the luddites and lawyers have been so successful that many universites that once offered nuclear engineering programs, such as Iowa State, my alma mater, you’ll find that there are far fewer of the trained experts you need to run the business.

  • http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/ Canada Guy

    Admin, I agree nuclear power does generate much less emissions over the life of a plant that fossil fuel plants. It’s not *no* emissions, but it is much better. I don’t think we should use nuclear plants to just replace fossil fuel plants and keep our consumption where it is (or allow it to rise.)

    However, if the US were to pass a strong bill lowering carbon emissions significantly (not just slowing their growth), and nuclear power was a part of this plan, I would not object, especially if it could get rid of all the coal plants.

  • admin

    >I don’t think we should use nuclear plants to just replace fossil fuel plants and keep our consumption where it is (or allow it to rise.)

    Agreed. We should use nukes to *supplement* fossil fuels, and encourage energy usage to increase. Efficiency is a good thing, but it’s a limited resource of diminishing returns. If you want humanity to prosper (and consequently all other species), ever more kilowatt-hours per person is required.

    If you want humanity to suffer, and to drag down the rest of the environment with us, then by all means restrict energy. That way, people will resort to burning trash to stay warm. And when they run out of trash, they’ll chop down the trees to stay warm. I’ve seen it. That’s what happened in California during the government-driven Grayouts. That was by far the filthiest air I’ve ever seen.

    And people struggling to make do with less rarely make grand adventures out into space… which is the only way to save the future.

    > if the US were to pass a strong bill lowering carbon emissions significantly…. I would not object

    Well, sure. It’s not difficult to see why non-Americans support the US cutting its own economic throat.

  • http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/ Canada Guy

    Just to be fair, I think Canada should do the same thing. :)

    And decreased energy use doesn’t have to mean suffering. I’m not talking about people freezing in the dark. Just eliminating obvious waste, more efficient transportation, smaller houses, less cars, etc.

  • admin

    > And decreased energy use doesn’t have to mean suffering.

    And collectivism doesn’t have to mean suffereing either… but history has shown that the concepts do seem to go together.

    >Just eliminating obvious waste, more efficient transportation, smaller houses, less cars, etc.

    And how does one achieve this? The current US administration wants to engineer this future by sowing the maximum misery, forcing people to give up comfortable houses for dinky apartments, large cars for smaller, slightly more fuel efficient cars, etc.

    A less evil and more forward-thinking (dare I say… progressive) approach would be to instead greatly increase energy generation systems (wind and solar for those few locatiosn where it makes sense; a few thousand additional nuclear reactors, including breeder reactors), and start a concerted effort towards the production of a synthetic gasoline replacement, such as… wait for it… “gasoline.”

    With a few extra dozen terawatts of electrical power, we could make a major dent in the need for imported oil by converting garbage and sewage and lawyers into crude oil via thermal depolymerization. Doing so would allow the current infrastructure to remain in place in perpetuity while reducing the “carbon footprint” of such “carbon criminals” as jet-setting Al Gore. This would certainly buy us the time needed to build major space-based solar power systems.

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