24 October 1997
News - Other (None)
NASA challenged to study SPS
Rep. Weldon to Challenge NASA, Industry to Pursue Space-based Solar Power
Washington, DC - U.S. Representative Dave Weldon (R-Palm Bay) will challenge NASA to investigate the feasibility of space-based solar power systems at a House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee hearing today.

"The future energy needs of our planet are tremendous, especially for the developing nations," said Weldon. "There's a lot of work to do to determine if that kind of technology is even feasible, but we need to bring the debate into the mainstream of public policy. We can't say this is an impossible idea until we've thoroughly looked at some of the new findings."

Space-based solar power was briefly pursued during the 1970s, but high development costs prohibited any further research. However, advances in launch technology, as well as the planned constellations of Low-Earth Orbit ( LEO) satellite constellations, may make space-based solar power options feasible. NASA's recently completed study, entitled " Space Solar Power: A Fresh Look," outlines several technology options that could make such efforts economical in the next few decades.

Essentially, space-based solar power involves assembling solar power collectors in Earth orbit, which would collect sunlight 24 hours a day, and then transmit that power as microwaves to Earth-based collectors. The ground stations would then relay the power over the exiting electricity infrastructure. Since the satellites are in orbit, they are free of the atmospheric interference suffered by ground-based solar collectors.

"I challenge NASA and the power industry to take a serious look at space-based solar power," said Weldon. "With the boom in LEO satellites, the private sector ought to experiment with transmitting data and power over the same microwave beam, since most of the LEO constellations will be using microwaves for ground transmissions."

"There aren't many power options that can satisfy the long-term needs and concerns of the world population, but this is one that can," concluded Weldon. "It doesn't harm the environment, it is essentially free power, and it pushes the envelope of our technology development. I can't think of a better way to make the development of space benefit the entire planet, but we have to start taking this seriously now, instead of waiting until we run out of options."

CONTACT: Brian Chase (202) 225-3671
Source: NASA Watch

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24 October 1997
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