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Beyond Earth Announces Major Space Solar Power US Policy Recommendations

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
August 9, 2021
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An artistic representation showcases the capture of solar energy in space that is precisely beamed it to where it is needed through the Space Solar Power Incremental Demonstrations and Research (SSPIDR) Project. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

WASHINGTON, August 5, 2021 (BEI PR) — Today the Beyond Earth Institute (BEI) is pleased to announce the unveiling of a Space Policy Directive (SPD) recommended for consideration by the US National Space Council, chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris, to promote the advancement and development of space solar power. Full text of the SPD can be downloaded here.

“The need for new, globally-deployable, carbon-zero but affordable energy sources has never been more urgent than today” said John Mankins, BEI Advisor and author of The Case for Space Solar Power. “The technology for space solar power has been around for more than 50 years. It’s only now that technological advancements make this energy source competitive with terrestrial power generation alternatives.”

Space solar power – consisting of systems harvesting solar energy in space and delivering it wirelessly for use on Earth, other celestial bodies, and in space – is a technically feasible and likely important option in meeting the global challenge of carbon net-zero energy during the coming decades.

Space solar power will be a critical technology in the coming decades and the proposed SPD will ensure that the United States remains a leader in this area of the space domain while continuing to increase the quality of life for everyone through space.

It is recommended that the United States pursue space solar power in accordance with the principles of safety, security, and sustainability while adhering to a proposed roadmap; this will allow for the timely development and demonstration of space solar power systems in the United Sates.

“Research, development, and demonstration of SSP in the near term is critical to moving the world off fossil fuels,” said Tony DeTora, Beyond Earth Institute Co-Founder and VP of Policy Coherence. “At the same time, SSP enables space exploration and development, leading to communities of people living and working beyond Earth. SSP can power the world, and power worlds beyond.”

Here is what the Beyond Earth’s proposed Space Policy Directive will do:

A space policy directive has been recommended for the consideration of the US Government; the key points from the proposed space policy directive are as follows: 

  • The US should undertake the timely development and demonstration of space solar power for civil missions and commercial markets.
  • The White House should assign NASA the lead role in this effort, which must involve participation by the Department of State, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, and other Agencies, as well as the private sector through public-private partnerships, and through international cooperation.
  • The following goals are recommended for NASA, working with others:
    • Develop SSP systems to deliver almost continuously dispatchable, baseload-scale net-zero carbon commercially viable power to markets on Earth.
    • Develop SSP systems suitable to lunar and planetary surface and in-space power.
    • To maximize international adoption, private-sector adoption, and low-costs, these capabilities should be developed through public-private partnerships and with international partners to the greatest degree possible.
  • A roadmap is recommended, including the following milestones:
    • By the mid-2020s, establish the technical foundation that will enable Space Solar Power to meet sustainable terrestrial and space commercial and government needs
    • By the mid-2020s, develop capabilities that enable production of SSP systems suitable for sustainable delivery of net-zero carbon energy to markets on Earth at commercially competitive prices
    • By the mid- to late- 2020s, resolve spectrum management and other regulatory issues, working through appropriate US and international organizations
    • By the mid- to late- 2020s, demonstrate an SSP system delivering power from low Earth orbit to the Earth’s surface – delivering not less than 1 kW
    • By the late-2020s, demonstrate space solar power systems delivering power to the surface of the Moon
    • By the late-2020s, develop, deploy and operation an SSP pilot plant delivering net-zero carbon power to one or more markets on Earth at 100 MW or greater, and scalable to 1 GW or more to support commercial operations in a wide range of terrestrial markets
  • Further, it is recommended that the United States should adhere to principles of safety, security, and sustainability in its development and use of SSP systems (including wireless power transmission), in accordance with all applicable Federal laws and consistent with international obligations and commitments.

 About the Beyond Earth Institute 

The Beyond Earth Institute is a 501(c)(3) U.S. non-profit organization (application pending). It is at the heart of all related initiatives that impact the success of the space movement with respect to human expansion beyond Earth. Beyond Earth’s focus is on technology readiness, worldwide public support, and related public policy enactment, including recommendations for policy initiatives. Beyond Earth conducts primary and secondary research, then consolidates and publicizes reports to be delivered and presented widely throughout the space policy community both in the U.S. and internationally.

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