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Here we go again with the SPSs. September 1, 2009

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar power satellites.

The SPS’s just won’t die. In spite of being utterly uneconomical, and doomed to being destroyed in space even if you press ahead anyway, the announcements just keep rolling in. Nothing like a little unobtanium to lighten up the “credit crunch”.

The latest is a Bloomberg story about how Mitsubishi and IHI have joined an effort to build a 2 trillion yen ($21 billion USD) SPS that generates 1 GW of power. At $12,000 a pound those numbers seem a bit fishy to me, so I read on. When noting the high cost of the space launches needed to put this stuff up there, quickly-contacted talking head Hiroshi Yoshida said “These expenses need to be lowered to a hundredth of current estimates”. A hundredth eh? And how are they going to do that? “Humankind will some day need this technology, but it will take a long time before we use it”.

Ahhh, they’re going to wish it into existence! Excellent. And when they do, it will consist of a cardboard box full of monkeys that says “Peekaboo Perfect Space Explore!” on the side (sorry, can’t resist, NSFW page if you want a laugh).

Once again I’m left scratching my head: if you’re going to wish for some super-tech to save your SPS, why is that tech always a better rocket? Why not just hope for a better solar cell? After all, that seems much more likely than a better rocket, given the Japanese track record in that department. But I know why; if you make a better solar cell, you’re still better off leaving it here on planet Earth. And this isn’t really about SPS’s, it’s about excuses to build cool rockets. Funny that Mitsubishi makes JAXA’s  H-2 rocket… but that’s just a coincidence, I’m sure.

Since my last diatribe, a reader pointed me in the direction of this excellent report. So don’t take my word for it, read it and weep.

Space power? June 12, 2009

Posted by Maury Markowitz in solar power satellites.

A few weeks back the science interwebs were alight with the news that Pacific Gas & Electric, California’s largest power supplier, had inked a deal to buy solar power beamed down from space. The fact that the post was on the NEXT100 blog, not an official PG&E press release, didn’t stop anyone from blogrolling it to the other end of the Earth in moments. Nor did the fact that the company, Solaren Corp, didn’t even have a web page seem to trigger any concern. If you googled it up, you could only find this company from Armenia, and even today you have to poke about a bit to find this page, which is entirely content-free and may not even be the same company (it’s listed in Washington).

Space power, eh? Ain’t gonna happen. Let me show you why…