Space-Based Solar Power

a public discussion sponsored by the Space Frontier Foundation

Wired Coyote

Posted by Robin on June 8, 2007

Military Target: Solar-Beaming Sats
By Noah Shachtman, Wired, June 07, 2007

Last month, a man at a bar introduced himself as “Coyote,” and told me he was working on the Pentagon’s plans to build a string of satellites that beamed solar rays down to Earth.


7 Responses to “Wired Coyote”

  1. Coyote said

    Egad! I’ve been Shacht!


  2. spacepolicy said

    Sounds like a scene out of a James Bond movie.

    – Charles

  3. Coyote said


    Yes, it does. If it were a movie, what would you call it?


  4. Dan said


    If it was a discovery channel program, I’d call it:
    “acres of scorched glass”, Weapon or tool?

    if it was a YouTube video it would be called:
    OH! My Eyyeees!!!

    seriously, politically, it would cause heartburn to
    environmentalists: (might singe a bird)
    Power Companies: at least if the cost was low (not for tens of years tho)
    left wingers: might be used as a weapon
    right wingers: might be used as a weapon by someone else.
    fusion researchers: might make their funding harder to get if gvt funds were allocated here.

    Getting agreement and political buy in is a challenge with any large scale project.

    I wonder what the cost and environmental impact for SpaceSolar would be compared to nuclear plants?

    Random thoughts,

  5. spacepolicy said

    Actually, the Space Frontier Foundation conducted a study of the attitudes of environmentalist groups about SSP a little over five (5) years ago. Margo Deckard, the Foundation’s SSP project manager acquired a grant from NASA to conduct this research.

    She briefed half a dozen of environmental groups on SSP, on both the upside potentials, and on the expected negative environmental impacts. (The Foundation has a copy of the research papers conducted by the Dept of Energy in the late 1970s.) The environmental groups discussed both the positive benefits, and the negative impacts. The study concluded that environmental groups were willing to consider SSP because they already had a systems attitude and systems-level thinking – they already know there are no perfect answers and all the potential energy sources for the future have negative impacts of one type or another. From that point, it is making a cost-benefit/risk analysis.

    The study also concluded that there is one (much smaller group) that was not willing to be open minded about it — and was pretty clear in its opposition. That was the amateur astronomy groups, who did not care about creating a new clean power energy source for humanity if it created lots of large bright objects in the sky that ruined their “dark skys”.

    – Charles

  6. Dave Handwerk said

    Greetings Charles,

    Lt. Col. “Coyote” Smith wrote: “I can’t think of a better legacy for our generation to leave to posterity than solving Earth’s energy needs once and for all-and opening a wider highway to the heavens at the same time.” That was very said and reflects my feeling too. I am a soon to be retiring baby-boomer Aerospace Engineer, and have studied Space Solar Power Satellites (SSPSs) quite a bit over the past few years.

    In my opinion, this statement: “At 100% efficiency and effective array thickness of 0.001 m (1 mm) mass on-orbit would be down by factor of ten – so it would only take ~ 1000 years to deploy at one EELV Heavy launch a day”, is probably pretty accurate. But this fellow is not considering the whole picture.

    EELVs are not the way to go on this project. We need a whole new launch system, one that can put stuff up there for less than $100.00 per pound. That would be an ElectroMagnetic Launch System (EMLS). The next item that may be questionable is the use of solar cell arrays whatever efficiency you could get them up to, and whatever thickness or mass you could get them down to. A better option might be something called Diamond Thermionic Electric conversion. These are said to be 98% efficient (plus the Carnot efficiency), using huge inflatable concentrating mirrors. I saw a US AF lab bimonthly on-line report about 2 years ago that said the AFRL was testing them and that they passes the test.

    The final part that should be noted, is that in order to keep them cheap, they should be really simply and easy to assemble in orbit – preferably by robots. I have done some work on this problem from an investors viewpoint and as the wholesale cost of electricity supplied the the planets electric grids passes $0.25 per Kilowatt-hour, this whole setup becomes profitable with a Return on Investment of 3 years. The hard part is finding investors with $3B who want to invest in anything in space. After all none of these investors have made any money in any space ventures so far (with a few exceptions).

    Anyway, I think eventually we will find investors and undertake this project as a commercial venture. If not, I’m sure that the Japanese or Chinese will.


    Dave Handwerk

  7. Joe Russo said


    Your blend of getting people motivated with also a sense of humor is outstanding.

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