As spaceborne energy-harvesting schemes go, this one seems faintly possible — an array of curved mirrors directing sunlight toward solar cells, their energy production microwaved down to Earth. It's so realistic, actually, that NASA is providing funding for a proof-of-concept study.
A former NASA engineer named John Mankins, now with a company called Artemis Innovation Management Solutions, detailed his plans at a NASA innovation conference recently. The concept is called called Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array (SPS-ALPHA), and it would harvest solar energy from a perch in high Earth orbit.
It would consist of a modular array of movable thin-film mirrors, which could be taken into space using current cargo ships and assembled piece by piece. This would be less expensive than building a gigantic array and launching it. These curved mirrors would redirect sunlight toward an internal collection of photovoltaic panels, and the solar energy would be converted into microwaves. Then the Earth-facing portion, or the bottom of the margarita glass in the image at top, would transmit low-frequency, low-intensity waves toward Earth. At the receiving end, power plants would convert the microwave energy into electricity, adding it to the power grid.
It's not as comprehensive — nor potentially destructive — as building a Dyson sphere around the Earth, but it's sort of along the same lines, building a space-based system that can harness solar radiation and somehow beam it back to the planet. Mankins' design is inspired by nature, according to an account of his presentation over at Space.com. It does sort of look like a flower.
His project, first announced last fall, is part of NASA's NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts project, under the Office of the Chief Technologist. A one-year study is ongoing.
Simpsons Did it.
Shape it like a sunflower--that will work too. The most efficient flower ever created by nature.
Did you bother to actually read the article? Which part of "...would transmit low-frequency, low-intensity waves toward Earth..." sounds like "tsunami spawning death ray"?
This basic idea has been around for decades, but it will never happen so long as we have to move all the needed components out of Earth's gravity well via rocket power. Either have to build a space elevator or mine the moon.
i believe nickola tesla had a few items that could benefit from this...wireless energy transmission was his passion
Looks a little like a 'light trap' similar to the gravity cone that distorts space near a black hole.
Will call it a 'solar photon vacuum'
A Death Ray aimed at Earth?
What could possibly go wrong?
I'm suprised no one touched upon the the shadow that this would cause on the earth, if it's as large as it appears, it would change the solar radiation that's received within the shadow range, if its in a geosynchronous orbit, than that shadow will be focused on a fairly contained area which will adjust lots of weather patterns.
Playing Devil's Advocate since 1978
"The only constant in the universe is change"
-Heraclitus of Ephesus 535 BC - 475 BC
Who cares about cost, just build the damn thing! This is why Human progression is so slow. It's all about money money money! and then politics, politics, politics! cut the crap and just do it!
@CodeZero read my mind. Also, what about space debris? I mean an array this large would surely be in danger of being struck by debris frequently. I think the maintenance costs could get pretty intense.
Also, @Cookie, I agree the red tape is pretty absurd, but your way is equally as ridiculous. "Hey, I have this idea for a giant, unprecedented solar array that will cost-" "Who cares!?! Just build it! Here's a blank check!"
Well put!! stupid money hungry politicians only care about dollar signs. until humanity learns how to share and stop worrying about how much money they will benefit from things, than we will see the next stage of human mental evolution. so basically, in humanities eyes Money is god. and God is Money. in a sense money is a form of religion. that is the person that blindly worships it always wants more and more. even if they dont truly NEED it. they just want it. they are addicted to it. its like a mixture of crack and extremist Islamist.
"religion is like a prison for the seekers of wisdom"
lol, I can't help it, my head is always in the clouds! I also don't think in terms of reality, but I mean well. :P
Well, at least private companies have got involved in space, which means more cool stuff.
How soon will you be donating all or part of your pay check to this project? Will you be donating anything at all, $10s, $20s anything per month?
I am funny about money. I do not even have a satilite dish or cable for tv. I use the free digital tv.
But hey if you want this gadget in the sky, how much money are you going to put towards it sir?
See life in all its beautiful colors, and
from different perspectives too!
Couldnt this cause some problems with pacemakers? Depending on how powerful these waves are, the shielding used on pacemakers may not be enough to prevent malfunctions...although im sure they would (or at least should) take that into consideration before making any official plans for this thing...
Pie in the sky.
One minute the paranoid conspiracy theorists are complaining about HAARP beaming energy outward and then they want enrgy beamed inward. Wouldn't this result in a net increase in global temperatures? What would Al Gore say?
I made a profile just to comment my idea. Its free, just lets get this Mass Effect Relay open already! First off Ive been a lurker here for about 5 years or so, love Pop Sci! Hi Robot, dude/person/AI, your crazy!! But I like! Moving on...
So why is everyone so quick to think giant death rays or space elevators and stuff like that? That stuff is hard to do and we don't know if we can "do" that per say. The tech or materials doesnt seem to be present, so lets drop it already.
Looking at the artists rendition, yea i can see this design working. It makes sense, but... its incomplete. Why dont we just ferry up and/or over to the energy sat? Have the satellite instead of "beam" energy, CHA huge arrays of graphine capacitors :) BOOM. we could do THAT alot sooner than anything else mentioned. Maybe have SpaceX/Richard Branson get this "transport" business on the way OR put one up there that stays there ro SUPPLY OTHER PROJECTS. Security? PSHHH... Make drone satellite designed to look like/function like Soundwave of course!!!
We COULD do it... We could.
I am so glad you made a profile and are commenting. I wish more people would comment. I think many are afraid to be pounced on by others.
Actually, I think generating and sending power back to earth is a cool idea. But I also see for it to be worthwhile, it has to big and send great quantities of power back to Earth to justify the cost of building this thing.
Now like an adjustable wrench in a tool box which is a great and useful tool for a mechanic, it can also be smacked to the back of the head of someone to kill someone.
Imagine if this power sending device gets hacked and starts causing damage on Earth, setting fires or who knows what negative things it may do if it extremely powerful. It may be adjusted send a beam some satellite, space station ISS or other things and destroy them.
Eventually satilites do become old, break and die. What happens as this things malfunctions and is sending a beam of power to earth? What damage might it cause?
If it become fair for USA to put this kind of power sending device in outer space, then it also becomes fair for other countries to do the same. Do you want North Korea, Iran to use and have such a device as politics are currently?
So this idea is great, but it also comes with cost verse gain, responsibility and possible negative consequence. All these things need to be considered.
Science sees no further than what it can sense, i.e. facts.
Religion sees beyond the senses, i.e. faith.
Open your mind and see!
Gizmowiz, are you referring to the flower or to the plant itself when you reference the sunflower. I know the sunflower as a whole plant is an efficient solar collector simply because of the amount of energy it can store in its seeds, but it does not compare to the seed hemp strain, which in the course of its half year life can reach well above the height of a sunflower and will store more chemical energy in a larger amount of seed. We are talking pounds of oil and protein per plant. Not to mention all of the energy needed to facilitate the growth of the remaining non-seed plant mass.
It seems history has resurfaced and suggested to be augmented greatly.
Hello FLOWER POWER! LOL!
For those thinking on that huge shadow, it would be parked adjacent to Earth-sun line of sight. Still, I think that it's too soon for this type of thing. As stated by others, there would be huge international fallout from this project. This basically says that We, The USA, are hereby taking a massive cubic area of Near Earth environment, because we can. Other nations or consortiums wanting to say, construct a massive orbiting spaceport/graving dock? You all are just screwed, no matter how rich you are, because WE have Earth ending technologies backing us up. Apparently we Americans have more rights than I thought we do. There's no mention of Mr. Mankins suggesting that this space generated power be free to anyone, anywhere; so I doubt that's what he has in mind. How we gonna sell the rest of the world on this? I know Japan has shown interest on this type of project, but I seriously doubt that either China or India would sit still for it.
I think this is a great idea but the side effects seem to great to justify the build, and like some of you say, other countries wouldn't be too keen on those side effects. But, maybe these things are being taken into account and the great minds behind this build are trying to build it with them in mind...one can only hope and wish to see humanity progress further in their lifetime.
Great. Just when the earth is heating up we figure out a way to pour even more energy into it. Unless this thing shadows an equivalent area on earth it will surely contribute to global warming. Is that good?
Al Gore would try to take credit for its invention. Remember when he invented the internet?
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I see that you are all quite interested in my latest project. Beautiful, isn't it? A giant friggin' satellite in high-orbit over Earth designed to collect solar power and "beam it down" to the surface. It is my latest and greatest achievement, and it has progressed much further than you were led to believe.
I call it... "SolorEye!"
Sol... Solar? Solor? Soler, am I spelling this right? Scotty, is it with an "o?" No, I know that, is... a second "o" or an "a"?
Anyway, this solAR array is designed to collect solar power and "beam it down" to the surface using low intensity "micro-waves." These "micro-waves" will appear to be benign in nature, but when I push this button it will MELT THE ICE CAPS and DROWN THE PLANET in a SEA of SALINE. We shall call this "Mother Earth is Crying."
And when Mother Earth cries, you will all witness the power of this FULLY OPERATIONAL DEATH STAR now what? What's that Scotty? George who? He has a first name for a last name, how quaint.
Yell-o! George, Baby... hey, I was just talking on my Droid, you know... what's that? Oh you own that too, uh-huh. Well listen, baby, George, I gotta call you back. 'Cause I've got these people on hold here on... yeah... uh-huh... Yokay, alright George, lemme call you back.
Alright, sorry about that people. I guess he's kind of a big deal. Anyway, as I was saying, I want you all to put ONE TRILLION DOLLARS into my PayPal account by 23:59 GMT tomorrow, or I will push this button and you can all witness the POWER of this... uh, amazing project.
To show a small example of what SolorEye can do, I have prepared this demonstration which is in no way a DVD of the Pierce Brosnan film "GoldenEye" which has in no way influenced this project in any capacity. So without further ado...
BEAM IT DOWN, SCOTTY!
Nasa that la Pro !!!
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I am thinking that this idea is very clever and have a lot of potential. Because it happens that I am doing a research on the issue I would appreciate it if mr John Mankins could contact me because I have a lot of interesting thins to propose to him and his company. My email is email@example.com
No way. How much rocket fuel do you think it'll take to put all that crap in space? And it costs about $1 million per lb to put an object into orbit. The carbon footprint of a project of the scale is MASSIVE as well.