Japan Has a Plan: Power Plant in Space

it_s-always-sunny-in-space

JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, recently announced that it intends to stick a solar-generated power station in orbit for the first time by 2025—just over a decade.

For Vice.com, Meghan Neal writes: Japan, where the disastrous Fukushima meltdown heightened the search for safe, sustainable alternative energy, is answering that need by sending a power plant into space.

“Solar panels in space are up to 10 times more efficient than the ones we’ve got on Earth, so the potential is beyond intriguing.”

Actually, the plan to power the globe with gigantic space-based solar panels has been kicking around since the ’60s. But thanks to a perfect storm of technological advances—strong but lightweight tether materials, swarming worker robots that can self-assemble, more efficient solar panels, and cheaper payload launches—this thing is actually looking feasible.

[Also see: It’s Always Sunny in Space]

japan-solar-farm-JAX

Image: Screenshot from JAXA/YouTube

Picture this: Floating 24,000 miles above the Earth’s surface is a mammoth power plant (power satellite may be more accurate) that stretches several miles long, weighs 10,000 metric tons, and is covered with solar panels basking in the sun and storing up its powerful energy.

The solar station is tethered to a base station on the ground with six-mile-long wires. This acts as a counterforce to offset the gravitational pull so the satellite is essentially pulled in tow as the Earth turns, keeping it at a fixed point in geostationary orbit. It’s the concept astrophysicists proposed to build our future space elevators, as explained Professor Emeritus at JAXA Susumi Sasaki in an editorial in IEEE.

The problem is that part of the Earth’s rotation spins it away from the sun, which doesn’t do much good for a solar power station. So the scientists hacked the initial model by adding in a couple mirrors to reflect the sunlight and point it directly on the panels, 24/7. These mirrors are just floating free, and scientists on the ground have to configure the whole setup with extreme precision.

That’s just the beginning of this multibillion-dollar challenge, however…(read more)

Motherboard @meghanneal  meghan.neal@vice.com


One Comment on “Japan Has a Plan: Power Plant in Space”

  1. […] Pundit from another Planet JAXA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, recently announced that it intends to stick a […]


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