New directions for space solar power

  • Mankins J
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Abstract

Several of the central issues associated with the eventual realization of the vision of solar power from space for terrestrial markets resolve around the expect costs associated with the assembly, inspection, maintenance and repair of future solar power satellite (SPS) stations. In past studies (for example, NASA's "Fresh Look Study", c. 1995-1997) efforts were made to reduce both the scale and mass of large, systems-level interfaces (e.g., the power management and distribution (PMAD) system) and on-orbit fixed infrastructures through the use of modular systems strategies. These efforts have had mixed success (as reflected in the projected on-orbit mass of various systems concepts. However, the author remains convinced of the importance of modular strategies for exceptionally large space systems in eventually realizing the vision of power from space. This paper will introduce some of the key issues associated with cost-competitive space solar power in terrestrial markets. It will examine some of the relevant SPS concepts and will assess the 'pros and cons' of each in terms of space assembly, maintenance and servicing (SAMS) requirements. The paper discusses at a high level some relevant concepts and technologies that may play r role in the eventual, successful resolution of these challenges. The paper concludes with an example of the kind of novel architectural approach for space solar power that is needed.

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Authors

  • J.C. Mankins

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