On page 11 of my book Dangerous Voyage to Alpha Centauri Tim tells the TV-reporter how the moon-station is supplied with energy by solar satellites:
“This is easily to explain, Miss Yang”, Tim said. “Your viewers on Earth, too, receive a large amount of energy from solar power satellites. On the Moon we have three solar power satellites in orbit. Each of them is equipped with a real wide field of solar cells. The energy they receive continuously from the Sun is transmitted as microwaves to a station on the surface right above this town. The energy is transformed into electrical energy to meet all our demands.”
What is it about Solar Satellite Power? What do we know about the use of solar energy?
In 1968, the Czech-German-American Peter Glaser, then working with Arthur D. Little Inc. in Cambridge (Mass) suggested that solar collectors be placed in geostationary orbit, about twenty-eight thousand six hundred miles above sea level.
These solar collectors should catch solar energy twenty-four hours per day all year long and beam this energy to Earth. The frequency of the beams was suggested to be in the range of microwaves. Waves like these we are using in our kitchens. On Earth, according to Glaser, antennas will receive the energy and convert it into electrical power.
Glaser’s ideas failed to gain ground for decades. Cheap energy was available in gas, oil and nuclear energy, which was gained by fission of uranium. Further more, the by-product of fission could be used for nuclear weapons to deter aggressors. This was regarded more important than gaining clean energy from space.
On the other hand it was and it still is quite expensive to launch solar panels and transmission equipment that high above Earth’s surface. We do it with meteorological satellites and communication satellites. The military, too, might use geostationary satellites. So it is already quite crowded up there. The orbital zone for geostationary satellites is a rather narrow ring in the plane of the equator. Also, the position of such a satellite varies slightly over the course of twenty-four hours due to gravitational interaction among the satellites, the Earth, the Sun, the Moon and the other planets. Seen from Earth, satellites wander within a region which is called “the Box.” To balance these slight movements within the Box ion thrusters are in use.
Nowadays energy prices are reaching historic highs. Oil production will keep slowing due to depleting reserves. That’s why mankind has to look for other sources to feed its thirst for energy, also in respect to its ever growing population.
“Solar-powered satellites (SPS) will become a major energy source by 2030,” scientists testified at a Congressional Hearing. SPS will help to reduce reliance on dwindling fuel supplies. On the other hand, solar power will not cease, at least not for the next billions of years.
You know, the Sun is the star we live on. Every being, animal or plant, depends on the energy our Sun is shedding upon this planet generously since almost five billion years. Far from focusing all energy upon our planet the Sun is emitting in each second an enormous amount of energy in all directions of space. Earth receives only a tiny bit of power from this energy producing giant.
In the Sun hydrogen atoms are fused into helium atoms. Each fusing of two hydrogen atoms to one helium atom is accompanied by the loss of the tiny mass of
0, 05 times 10 -27 kg
This mass is converted into energy according to Einstein’s famous formula E = m times c2. Of course, our Sun doesn’t produce a single helium atom in a second but
6 times 10 9 tons of hydrogen
are fused into helium every second. The Sun does this since 4.8 billion years.
Doing so, our Sun will loose 45,000 tons of its mass in every single second. This mass is changed into 1,000 times 10 18 kWh of energy per second. Imagine: this energy produced by our Sun in one second would supply 100 million US households for 10 million years.
Now you could say, that from our dear Sun soon nothing will be left, if 45,000 tons are lost in each single second. Multiply 45,000 tons per second with 86,500 seconds per day and 365 days per year and with 4.8 billion years (the number of years our Sun spends light). The loss of mass would add up to
6.7 times 10 21 tons.
But, indeed, today our Sun measures
2.000 000 times 10 21 tons.
Compared to this mass the loss of 6, 7 x 10 21 tons is just 0, 00033% and you will agree, this is hardly anything.
Almost all stars you see at night are shedding light in all directions. The fusion of hydrogen into helium and the corresponding loss of mass allow them to do so and allow us to marvel their beauty at night.
The flood of energy we receive continuously from our Sun represents an inexhaustible reservoir of energy for mankind’s need.
In May 2000, the Chairman of the House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (D-Cal) demanded a roadmap for space-based solar power satellites. In October 2001, a special study group of the National Research Council pointed out that solar power satellite could “have important commercial, civil and military applications for the nation.” A top recommendation is that industry experts, academia, and officials from other government agencies such as DOE should be engaged in charting space-based solar power along with NASA.
In my novels mankind has learned to relay this energy via microwaves from solarsats to Earth or to the Moon’s surface.
More about this subject you find in my thrilling novel, you can order here: ORDER
Peter E. Glaser, Frank P. Davidson and Katinka Csigi,Solar Power Satellites Wiley Praxis Series ISBN 0 – 4719 – 6817 – X