In-business Asimov’s space-based solar vision is more than a science fiction

Solar energy updates

In his short story “History,” Isaac Asimov, a science fiction novel published in 1941, described the universe in which humans gather solar energy to sustain life on earth.

Eighty years later, and in a global climate emergency, the idea of ​​capturing solar energy through space-wide solar panels and transmitting it back to Earth via microwave may become a reality.

China, the United States, Europe and Japan are all developing projects. According to Chinese media reports, Beijing plans to plan for the 2030s.

In September, the British government indicated it wanted to test the technology’s capabilities. In 2050, the Sun will publish a new study that will help Britain achieve a zero-sum economy.

A report by consultants Fraser-Nash, a consultant from European companies such as Airbus and Thales-Allenia Space, argues that space-based solar energy is not only technologically impossible, but that the cost of life could be half a megawatt of nuclear energy. Power.

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Again, if the private sector can help with the bill, states must also improve the legal system that governs land use.

The 1967 Outer Space Agreement is insufficient for fast-growing business opportunities. Individual nations are now beginning to fill the void left by their own laws on trade rights and responsibilities. Rachel Ogradi, legal partner of Meyer Brown, a law firm, warns.

Of course, most countries find it difficult to do so alone. Since the technology could be a game changer for the global climate crisis, this project will provide a strong impetus for development in a global partnership.

Clearly, building solar gardens on earth is cheap. But space-based solar energy, in contrast to its orbits, can reach almost any space on the planet. Reliable green alternatives can be loaded depending on the generating capacity.

Until recently, such infrastructure was costly. But part of Elon Musk’s reusable falcon rocket and small satellites have changed the formula. The 2018 NASA survey estimates that prices have dropped by 20 times over the past decade.

Other enabling technologies have also developed. The New Zealand company is already testing the wireless transmission over many miles. According to Martin Soltau, head of space at Fraser-Nash, the orbits above the earth are very far away. But basic physics is well understood.

The size of the satellite poses the greatest challenge in an unprecedented 1.7-kilometer range. Such a measure would prove to be an effective transmission of energy to the earth.

This seems impossible. But John Nkinson, a former NASA physicist, developed the SPS-alpha concept using systems. A satellite can be assembled by robots and contain thousands of small solar units, for which technology is advancing rapidly.

Undoubtedly, there will be questions about the vulnerability of the system, its maintenance and its contribution to growing space debris. These and other issues need further study.

And there is no guarantee that space-based solar energy will be economically viable. However, even though it has a twisting value, it can be paid for by any innovation, such as solar radiation and robots.

In November, the UK will host the COP26 Global Climate Summit. The topic of cooperation should be discussed. The energy and space industries must also be involved. Companies such as BP, LL and EDF have expressed interest.

Space-based solar energy should never be more of a science fiction than a commercial space shuttle. Yes, there are fears that promising technologies such as space-based solar energy may not work. And the failure to reach an international agreement on an effective legal framework could expose space hostility not only to human life but also to human prosperity.

But with the right motivation and planning, this renewable energy source can work in our lives.

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