Space Solar Power
This track will address some of the key engineering, economic, and environmental challenges of constructing Space Based Solar Power Satellites (SBSPS). First proposed in the late 1960’s, Solar Power Satellites would gather energy from sunlight in space and transmit it wirelessly to Earth. Proponents of the concept have long suggested that space solar power could solve our energy and greenhouse gas problems while providing ample quantities of energy to Earth with very little environmental impact. Detractors have dismissed the concept as impractical and too expensive to initiate. This track will review the most recent design and feasibility studies, advances in critical power transmission technologies, and the latest thinking in architectural concepts. The key questions this track will address are: Is there a path forward that is both doable and affordable to the first multi-megawatt pilot plant? And, given that space solar power would transform our future in space, and might provide a new source of virtually limitless and sustainable energy to markets across the world, why are we not vigorously pursuing Space Based Solar Power Satellites as a nation?
Co-Chair: Gary Barnhard, CEO, Xtraordinary Innovative Space Partnerships, Inc.
Co-Chair: John C. Mankins, Mankins Space Technologies, Inc.
Mr. Mankins’ 25-year career at NASA and CalTech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) ranged from flight projects and space mission operations, to systems level innovation and advanced technology research & development management. He is also well known as an innovator in R&D management. For example, building on the original NASA ‘technology readiness level’ (TRL) scale for technology assessment (defined first with 6 or 7 levels in the 1970s), he extended the scale to flight systems and operations in the late 1980s (TRLs 8 and 9), published the first detailed definitions of the TRLs in 1995, and promoted the use of the scale by the US Department of Defense in the late 1990s.
Before leaving NASA, Mr. Mankins was the manager of Exploration Systems Research and Technology within the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate with responsibility for an $800M annual budget, involving more than 100 individual projects and over 3,000 personnel. For 10 years, he was the manager of Advanced Concepts Studies at NASA, and the lead for critical studies of space solar power, highly reusable space transportation, affordable human exploration approaches, and other topics. He was the creator or co-creator of numerous novel concepts, including the ‘MagLifter’ electromagnetic launch assist system, the Internet-based NASA ‘Virtual Research Center’ the ‘Solar Clipper’ interplanetary transport vehicle, the ‘SunTower’ space solar power system, the ‘Hybrid Propellant Module’ for in-space refueling, the ‘HabBot’ mobile planetary outpost architecture, the Advanced Technology Life cycle Analysis System (ATLAS), and others. In recognition of his accomplishments, he has received numerous awards and honors, including the prestigious NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal (of which he was the first recipient).