Upward Bound: Power Satellites
The. Universe provides so, much power yet, we struggle to tap it and crave more, instead. Of being powerless let's, get our forth and conquer, space. So. Today we continue the Upward Bound series. And our look at how to get into space cheaper, and easier and. What we can do up there once we can place stuff in orbit more cheaply of course. If you're up in space for a while you, will need a reliable power, supply, and that, generally, means either, solo, or atomic. In. Terms of the latter Fusion, is a good option if we can ever get it walking but. Fission is not something folks want in orbit overhead, in large quantities, the. Big weakness, of ground-based solar, or that it's useless on cloudy days and, at night but. This is an area where being in space is actually, a major advantage, when. We a force that dark void of space will, be more poetic, than accurate, space. Near Earth is costly, lit brighter than the noontime Sun and, indeed you have to get out beyond the asteroid, belt before, solo stops being as effective Vail as it is on most of off the. Equivalent, of darkness, in space depends, on your distance, from the Sun or if something's in between you and the Sun placing, you in the object shadow while. In the object, in a classic low Earth orbit, is spending a lot of its time in the relatively large shadow of the planet as you, get further away less, of your orbital path is in that shadow, additionally. Various non, circular, orbits all locations, like the Lagrange points, have little to no time in shadow eliminate. Most or all the, downtime experienced. By solar panels situated. On the earth as. For wearing down over time solar. Panels, on earth have to contend with dust, rain snow. Sandstorms. Thermal, fluctuations. And other weathering, none, of which are present in the vacuum of space and, needless. To say there. Are no clouds there I though, the. Total benefit, is about seven, times more kilowatt, hours per year from, a given photovoltaic, solar, panel, perpetual. Lighting also eliminates, most the need for batteries all. Of which makes solar an excellent, choice for space, it's. Much more attractive, than on earth and, of course we are interested in getting that energy - authe weather, beamed down or otherwise. And eventually to other places in space, the. Idea has been looked at a lot for decades, but, is becoming increasingly feasible. Now that launch costs, all plummeting, for, this to be practical, though we have to overcome certain issues, and, we should start by laying those out, forced. And foremost getting. Stuff into space is expensive, doing. That cheaper is after. All what, this series is mostly about a solar. Panel in space might, be several times more effective than one on earth but, if you need to spend hundreds of times more money to get that panel up they'll while, it remains useful, for powering things up there it wouldn't really make sense to beam it down not. Where you can fall more easily deploy and maintain, conveniently. Sized arrays a panel is down here but down, here you, have to add energy storage, which, is several times more expensive than PV panels, if you want to compare apples to, apples. Second. There is the question of how you beam that energy down and this comes with a lot of problems, for, instance if you're beaming down with a visible light laser it still, has to go through all that alien clouds there. Is also an additional effect called thermal-blooming, that, causes, laser light to be absorbed by, the atmosphere over any significant, distance, at least for frequencies, that interact, with the atmosphere, you. Also lose energy at every stage of the process as. You can for sunlight, to electricity then. Into lasers then, down to earth through the atmosphere, into, a collector, veil and back, into electricity again, we'll. Be looking at these problems some solutions, and some, alternatives to, visible light today in greater detail, but that, brings up a thought issue which, is safety a big. Giant laser is also, known as a death ray, and with, any power beaming system, you, are directing a lot of energy into a potentially, small place this.
Is A serious, problem if your beam goes off target, from the collector and over, to a city be, that as a result of an accident or deliberate. Action, so, we'll be looking at ways you'd, be trying to make one safe to use it. Is also worth, remembering though, that a giant laser in space also, has some handy uses like, blowing up incoming Astro, or space junk not, to mention it's a great way to push spaceships, up to high speeds, so we, will also be discussing some, of the non terrestrial uses, of power satellites, later on though, our main focus, is getting energy, to off at this. Point we have to start considering scale, at, present. Humanity. Uses energy from all sources combined, at an average power rate of about 18 terawatts, 18. Million, megawatts. Not. Including the solo energy used by photosynthesis. And evaporation. That's, about 2400. Watts per person, day, in day out every, day, and while, we are getting a lot more efficient, with power usage, we also have a lot of people in developing regions who, don't use much yet and hopefully. Will in the future hopefully. Not too much or too soon, though because, our main method of power generation, has, concerns, about heating up the planet we. Should start with a note vo then as folks, often Roy about power satellites, key in the planet by adding more energy, which, of course they do the. Thing is it, is a doctor of Act use of energy that's heating the planet while. We use energy at an eighteen tailwater, eight earth, we see is about ten thousand, times that energy from Sun lines the, extra heat we add would be trivial on its own the. Concern is with the greenhouse gases, being released and trapping, an additional, fraction, of the solar energy not. The extra, energy we consume directly. However. Power. Satellites, are solar powered so. Without a console you could just have them block incoming light, - or cutting. Down on how much reaches, us not. That you bother since, you could easily use a meal to do the job which, is cheaper, thinner, and a lot less complex, for such a geoengineering, purpose. 1800. Watts is a huge. Amount of power and even, almost efficient, experimental. Solar panels, though still being walked on in a lab would, only get you about 600, watts per square meter in orbit to, get up to 18 tail watts you, need 30,000, square kilometres, of our best panels, or a single, panel 100. Kilometres and radius that. Wouldn't include any losses in transmit neither, fortunately. We can assume - cPanel. Is all used as the single biggest cost to deploying a power satellite, is launched, cost which, we'll discuss in, a moment solar. Panels, will continue yet Lydell cheaper, more durable, and more efficient, as time goes on but, for the moment if, we use our top-end figures, for performance, we can do a panel, with thickness as low as two millimeters. Mass, the only about two kilograms, a square meter and generating. About 600. Watts per kilogram in, space. Constantly. To, get 18 trillion watts out of 600, watts per square meter would, require 30 billion square meters or, 30 thousand, square kilometers, an approximate. Mass of 60, billion kilograms. At. Current, launch costs, that could run nearly a hundred trillion, dollars, and doesn't. Include any losses and transmission. Or other associated, equipment, however. These. Would likely have a lifetime of twenty to thirty years and, since the energy sector is several, trillion dollars a year with. Estimated, figures very widely, spread. Out over 20, or 30 years this, would already be, approaching, a competitive. Cost as. Manufacturing. Continues to improve and launch, Costra, this, could get us into the economically, feasible zone for power satellites, rather, quickly and now, would seem a good time to start prototyping to, see if this can be made viable, as launch, costs drop, however. This, is SFI. A so. We are less interested, in the next decade, than the next century and the, earlier episodes of, this series discuss, mini launch systems, that we already have the tech for that can drop launch costs, to attend or even, a hundredth of what SpaceX's, Falcon Heavy, can do as. A reminder, stuff. Like Jim Powell's star tram or Keith lost Rome's launch loop or Paul, Bush's orbital ring or not, all that high-tech they. Just have a big upfront, cost, many.
Billions, Of dollars which, only looks big since we don't actually spend our relatively, small space budget on launching. Truly massive things all. Annual, ground to space launch volumes, are tiny, compared, to a single day's traffic. Through any major, airports, and seem as you don't build an International Airport next to a small village you, don't build these kind of launch systems, to you already to up your game and launch a lot more not, because, they are particularly high-tech, when. You're thinking about replacing a multitrillion-dollar, sector. On the economy, options, like those launch alternatives. Suddenly, become much more attractive, and profitable. See, those episodes for details but even, the most expensive of them are offering, launch cars smaller than the production cost of the power satellites, it's. Also worth noting that much of their operational, cost is electricity. Which, neither to say is altered, when you're launching gigawatt, size power generators, into orbit. Additionally. Most of the weight of a panel is still silicon. The second most abundant elements, on the moon surface provide, after oxygen, nor. Are solar panels incredibly. Tricky to produce especially. When mass and efficiency, isn't much of an issue and the, moon is close enough for us to do remote operations. So, any factories, they are do not need much personnel, physically, present to operate or, sophisticated. Artificial intelligence. Before. We move on I should also note that photovoltaics. Toning, photons, into, electricity the way a solar panel does is, not the only way to turn light into, electricity, we. Could for, instance just, concentrate, light on a liquid in pipes so, it heats up boils. And tones, a turbine a thermal. Power set like, the prize-winning flower center design this. Is a viable way of generating, power provide. The light is sufficiently, intense, and, sunlight, can be made incredibly. Intense thermal. Methods are how most power generation, of calls using. Atomic, or chemical, fuel source for heat instead, of sunlight if. You can't make cheap or solar panels you can always use a bunch of thin parabolic, meals and non imaging light funnels, to focus light on some substance, to heat it and drive, a fairly, standard heat engine, getting. Rid of waste heat during the cycle is Hodel when, you can only remove heat from a system in space, by radiating, nuts but, you can still use cooling, by conduction, and force, convection inside. It the, backside of all those meals can also be used for radiating, surfaces, to even. Surfaces, exposed to sunlight can, potentially, be used to radiate waste heat by use of wavelength, selective surfaces. Okay. So, we can collect it up there but, how do we get it down the. Traditionally, suggested, method is microwaves, in a beam which, Roy's folks a bit since we also use, those to heat up our food they'll, heat up a portion or city just as well we'll, get the safety issues in a bit forced. Why microwaves, and. They are not the only option but, in terms of our spectrum the atmosphere, does a very good job keeping, out virtually all gamma and x-ray, radiation and. The, overwhelming majority of ultraviolet, - so. They're not great wavelengths, to use to get our energy passed the atmosphere. Visible. Light goes through pretty well obviously. But, much is still lost even in an open sky and, clouds. Obviously all motorists, on visible light transmission, don't. Discard it just from that though power, satellites, all around the planet can, just retarget, their beams to collect those not obscured, by the clouds and only. On the cloudiest days will, we not have clear sky windows which some Palace hats could use to give an angle on the ground based collectors I should. Also note that we, always want other power, generation, methods, and, energy, storage in any power grid anyway, so. That some ground-based collector, is being blocked by clouds sometimes. Is not really, a deal breaker for visible, light no. Do you necessarily, need to be light down as a laser, a big, parabolic, dish concentrating. Light on ground-based, collectors, is an option - which, gives around thermal-blooming, that, happens when a high-power, laser and was a medium like air that's, absorbing, some of it and heating, up and scattering, the beam a lot this. By the way is a really big issue for, using ground-based, lasers, to intercept, missiles, or using, lasers for ultra-high bandwidth, data transmission. Over long distances. Since, power the point is to get power down at night using. The visible range of the spectrum in broad diffuse, beams could, cause a lot of light pollution. Though in some places this, might be advantageous. Of. All the spectrum, radio, waves are the ones that basically ignore, the atmosphere, and clouds, the most overall, and, microwaves. Which, are shorter than radio waves and wave lines which is where the name micro, comes from are quite, good at going through all atmosphere, clouds or not, you.
Might Wonder about the danger of this but, if you are accessing, this episode overall wireless, network I should, note that those use microwaves, too and the same frequency, as your microwave oven there's. Nothing very special about that frequency, by the way it's, just in a small band that the FCC, lis is free for, non broadcast, purposes, the. Equipment, operating at these frequencies, is also, pretty efficient, at converting between, electricity, and microwaves. Especially. Compared to lasers, you. Can do better than 75%, with, a magnetron, converting. Electricity into microwaves. Whereas, laser efficiency. As much as it's improved is still generally more like 50% our, best. New laser designs, can almost match that but, historically, lasers. Have been much less efficient. Microwaves. Remain metal but not by the same overwhelming, mojin, he. Was the thing though a retina. A specialized. Type of antenna for, absorbing these microwaves, and toning, them back into electricity has. An efficiency, of at least 85%. Much. Better than all best solar panels, this. Means that any side effect environmental. Heating from beamed in microwaves, will, be much less as well, now. Ask the safety consultants, the, general notion is to beam the energy in at about 100, watts per square meter non, coincidentally. What OSHA says is the maximum, safe workplace, exposure, amount to. Get 18, tail watts and keep, in mind 15%, is lost in conversion, by retinas, would, require about, 200,000. Square kilometres. Of retina. Collector, surface area sounds. Big and indeed, it is that's. About the size of Nebraska not. That you be putting them all in the same place more. To the point that, doesn't really seem much better than covering huge chunks of layer with solar panels of course, you could just increase, power density, and fence, the plate off but. You still be blowing boats away left and right and potentially, have a doomsday weapon though. Realistically, you. Could vamp the beam intensity, up and order of magnitude, without, producing too, much of either problem, boards. Would tend to avoid them as uncomfortable, or be able to swoop through before being hot this, is mostly just raw heat damage like being too near your fireplace after, all, however. The neat thing about effect enna is that you can use multiple of them to cover a wide area and, this, area is not entirely lost to you as erect enna is a mesh, more like chicken while than, an opaque glass panel, and tougher. - indeed. You could beam it light down on a city and provide wireless, power though, obviously you'd want to be careful about concentrating. It too much. Incorporating. Solar panels, into roads and parking lots obviously. Has extreme issues with durability, while, sticking a layer of chicken while oval, foam fields, or grazing land isn't, difficult nor. Is it that hard to concentrate such, beams to such sizes, and keep them on target, nor, were they torture Philae follow through the landscape as they, go but. The optical, considerations, of microwaves, means, that back tenez receiving, gigawatts, will, necessarily be, large usually. Several kilometers, across. Safety. Is easily, achieved by having the emitter and collector handshake. And the, beam just shuts off if it goes off target, I should. Probably note that an optical, version, of this using, nanotech and meta materials called, an antenna, shows, promise, of achieving a 70%, Ohio convulsion, of optical.
Light Frequencies, to electricity, the, impact of this emerging, technology on, solar panels ground. Or space-based, might, be immense and very, near in hand, again. Though this, is SFI, a in. This series, it's only been a few episodes since, we were talking about orbital, wings the, great big wings around planets, for getting into space, once we want to be moving millions of people and megatons. Of cargo back, and forth between space, and the ground on a daily, basis. And uh lavinius fall cheapo, kilogram, for kilogram, then any other options, and you can scale, it up immensely, if you want to unlike. Rockets where, that kind of throughput would, also produce enough pollution, and heat, to mess with your climate, if. You want to do a lot of travel from ground of space and, you love your planet you should put a ring on it while. The massive drop in launch, cost is certainly handy the orbital ring also brings, some benefits, from being directly connected, to the planet below you. Can run tethers, and lines down to the surface without, making them of super materials, like graphene though. You may still want to use graphene. In particular since. Recent improvements, are being made in producing, it in bulk, and it's quite a good conductor, of electricity, but. The important, point is that tethers, going from the ring to the planet need only be reasonably. Strong not, space, elevate or strong and don't, have to be rigid or run in straight lines because. Of this they can be built with some extra features in mind such. As transmitting. Powell ringing, people or cargo to and from the cities near the Ming and can do so without a lot of the hassle of something like a rocket. You, can't launch a rockets anyway, on neo a city or any, sort of spaceship meant for that kind of speed and acceleration not. Without damaging, the city or even killing people so you'd have to commute to a launchpad fall, from that city and any, of its suburbs. Alternatively. An open, event ethel can, leave from any terminal in that city as easily, as a train or subway allowing. Direct transport, of people from a city up to the ring and for. That matter they can also transport, up heat something, we might discuss more in the future but this is interesting in the context, of that monopolist, planet-wide, cities, or, their little brothers oncology's. And that it means space based power generation, is actually, better than fusion. Because a fusion, reactor is still, producing, a lot of waste heat in, the process, of making electricity. Power. Plants, generally lose over, half their energy to heat loss in making, electricity even before it hits the power grid we're even more lost to resistance, on the line, but, a solar panel in space run electricity, right down a cable to a city or for, that matter a reactor, in space doing the same he, is not producing, one extra drop of heat on earth that isn't in the grid so, no heat is being produced due to electricity, production waste though, of course all that electricity will end as heat either in the wireless or at your house it's, just not leaving half a wall back at the power plants, orbital. Rings all a major investments. And they also owned local, you have to encircle the whole planet, we. Do have another option which. Can be done strictly at one location, and that, is to build common, space towels I call. Them that because they reach the common line which, is the generally accepted line, between hall atmosphere, and space, even. With all material, science today we, can build such a lightweight structural using, carbon fiber materials, we, might even squeak by without having to resort to newell construction, techniques, to as many.
Of You will be aware though here, at SF IA we, are very much in favor of using, active, support systems, to build higher and stronger. Co, episode on space towels and particularly, the Atlas pillow for, how to do that, as a, brief recap we, support, the tower by using a series of fountains, of material. Propelled, through the, towel our. Common, towels are lightweight, Atlas pillows poking, above the atmosphere, with an energy collector at the top now. The atmosphere does, not have up the end as you go into space at, the common line which, is 100, kilometres up the, AO density, is about 2.2, million, times less than at the surface that's, handy for power generation as we'll see should. You have trouble building quite that high much, of the advantage, remains, from going Shortell, but taller is battle, Atlas, pillows take a lot of power to keep them supported, how, much depends on your efficiency, regenerating. The momentum, of the support material, in, theory, that could be a 100% efficient, closed-loop but. We're not there yet and these, would use a fair, amount of power you. Might ask what is the point of having a common tower that consumes some of the power it produces when. Could just beam the energy to the ground instead the, answer is the energy collective is in space. Having. The collective in space, handily. Gets around a lava transmission. Losses and, other problems we discussed, like, thermal-blooming, light, pollution hazards. To animals and the, trade-off, of concentration. For safety, you. Can skip a lot of these steps by just having big meals and pail bollock dishes that, can point at a large array of solar collectors fanned. Out on the top of that tower and flood, the panelists, with as much light as they can handle and those, meals can bounce light to the night cycle, echoes just, fine as well, as filter out any frequencies, we can't use well or which, might degrade the panels you. Stick one just north of a city so at neville shadows it and run a low resistance power, line down it and now, that city has a good power supply and a, popular, tourism, spot since. Looking now from 100 kilometres up gives a breathtaking. View of everything, for a thousand, kilometres around. It. Also has virtually no footprints, on the ground is, very safe if there's a power loss our, force ultra high efficiency, power transform, and provides, direct, access to space and a, launch system, see, this space towers, episode for, more on this. Another. Thing that having a direct connection between space, and the, ground gives us is an ability to deal with the heat produced at the convert, all in. Space, the, only way to get rid of the heat is to radiate, it away which, require, less giant, radiators, it's. Also less efficient, than using convection. And conduction which. Are cooling options only, available, on the ground if. We pipe the heat back to earth we, can much more easily dissipate. It we, can also use the heat as a source, of power in its own right or use, it as a way of D Saladin Waddell with coastal, common, towels, come. To think of it I like the idea of a steampunk solution. We, generate steam at the collector, and use the steam pressure as part, of the active support of the tower itself, we, also tap it for energy using, turbine generators, and then, pump the cord fluid back. To the collector the. Entire structure, could be a giant steam engine converting, the steam to electricity as we go. Traditionally. You do this with magnets, launching, material, up a mass driver that, slowed down and deflected, back by a receiver up top but. In theory any flow of matter walks. So. Power satellites, seem a much more attractive option and a potential, gateway to space as launch, costs, drop we've. Talked about many industries, that might feel a snowball, effect to help us get into space science. Tourism, even, filmmaking. But. Which of these can match energy. A market. Making up roughly 10% of, our global, economy and, the biggest bottleneck, on gradle possibility, for Humanity, in this modern, era get.
Power Satellite, operations, down to even just near the price per kilowatt of, other, existing, sources and it, not only could power our homes here, on earth but. Our efforts to make homes off earth, and. Certainly, the power demands too many factual, space habitats, will be much higher than that sized, for the habitats, ongoing. Domestic consumption so, even, if power generation, was the first piece of infrastructure, built additional. Power could, be beamed construction, projects, as needed, or even, as emergency, panel a ladle indeed. Temporary, beam power for space projects, such, as mining, and construction could. Be a major space, industry, in itself, and. Its applications, own just for Earth and near-earth as we'll, see next week when, we continue our discussion of generation, ships to colonize distant, stars one. Of the hardest parts about traveling, in deep space is getting, up the speeds necessary, to do it unreasonable timelines, and to, provide power to those ships fall from the Sun but, still needing to keep warm and lit, for those who dwell inside you. Can beam Pal out quite a long way and you can use it to help ships get up to speed of, course slowing down is another matter and one, we'll discuss next week in Exodus. Fleet. Electricity. Is the lifeblood of all our Science and Industry here, on earth and. We'll be for those ships too and, fundamentally. As launch, costs drop and solar panel efficiency Rises. Power, satellites, can offer us a virtually, unlimited supply. Of electricity without, the, ecological, problems, or supply, bottlenecks, of our current, energy options. We. Had to gloss over a lot of the discussion, of the basics, of electromagnetism. Induction. Current, heat engines and other core topics, that explain how power, generation, and transmission is, actually. Done and why some of those methods we looked at today are better, than others if you'd, like to learn more about those topics or just brush up on them then I'd recommend the regents physics reviews those. Courses step through basic, physics and some more advanced material in a detailed, and professional. Fashion never. Skipping, over Tom's by assuming folks already know them but also not dummy things down either, those. Are available over, that skill shell an online, learning community that focuses on assembling, classes, on technology, and has, courses, on everything, from basic sciences, to, a lot of model and software and I've, been using a lot of their classes, on video production audio. Engineering, and animations. To improve the content he'll on the channel if you, want to improve your skills unlock. New opportunities, and do, the work you love give. Skill shell a trot and a, premium membership gives, you unlimited access, to, classes, like those if. You want to join me and the millions of other students, already Lonnie on Skillshare we, have a special, offer just for my listeners get. Two months of skill shell for, free to. Sign up go to skl sh. /, isaac to again. Go to sk l da sh /, eyes or two to get two months of unlimited access to, over 20,000. Classes, for, free @ now for the special offer and start learning, today as, mentioned. Next, week we'll be returning to our topic of generation, ships to, look at ways to provide them the power they need to cover huge, interstellar, distances in, reasonable. Times and to keep their crew alive doing, those voyages through, the empty ocean of space. The week after that we'll be teaming, up again with Joe Scott of answers, with gel to look at some of the potential catastrophes. Humanity. Might have to deal with before, we can get out there and set out the galaxy and the, ways we might avoid those mitigate. The damage or recover. After Ward's for. Lords when those and other episodes come out make, sure to subscribe to the channel and if you enjoyed this episode hit, the like button and share with others, until. Next time thanks. For watching and, have, a great week.