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.