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Guest: Dr. Paul Jaffe; Topics: Space Solar Power (SSP) research and development progress, microwave beamed energy work, laser beaming and propulsion, weaponization, commercial development, energy politics and economics, government policy, timelines, demos and experiments.
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We welcomed Dr. Paul Jaffe back to the program to guide us through the maze of space solar power (SSP) R&D, demo projects, the who's who of SSP work plus we received a quality grad school education on SSP technology, policy, energy policy and economics, along with many side issues but still very relevant issues. During our discussion with Paul, he mentioned a few research papers we should examine. We thank listener Bill for getting us those links and posting them to the blog. Now with research being made easy, I strongly urge you to read the papers Paul referenced. In addition, Paul mentioned the Naval Research Lab YouTube page and videos many times as a great source of information with video to show us the research. The address for this YouTube page https://www.youtube.com/user/USNRL. As you will see, there are lots of NRL videos and topics besides power beaming and SSP. A
As I have been doing of late, I am repeating the tags and key words to serve as a good summary of most of the topics discussed on this show in the order discussed. Keep in mind that this summary, while accurate, does not tell the complete story of our discussion so do listen to all of this 92 minute program.
Tags/Key Words Repeated Here: "Dr. Paul Jaffe, Naval Research Lab, NRL Space Solar study report, PRAM, X-37B, microwave power beaming, space solar power, IEEE, sunlight in space, LEctenna project, rectennas, RF issues, SSP in GEO, AFRL SSPIDR Project, SSP commercial operations timeline, heliostats, unknowns and uncertainties, energy cost analysis, government subsidies, energy policy, picking winners through policy, coal plans, GPS, using extraterrestrial materials for manufacturing SSP hardware, pumped hydro, Tesla batteries, launch costs, life expectancy, specific power, comsats, watts/kilogram, Cal Tech SSP R&D, spectrum allocation issues, laser power beaming, SSP as a weapon, lower power densities, wave length, SSP and astronomy concerns, SSP and ham radio concerns, beamed energy propulsion, Starshot, blank check funding progress."
One area of the discussion I liked focused on space policy and energy economics to see how space solar power fit in for today and for the future. A good question came from San Mateo listener Joan. Joan wanted to know how SSP economic analysis factored in government policy, government picking winners, subsidies to green energy but penalties to fossil fuel and more. Her bottom line was about understanding the actual cost of SSP as compared to traditional energy costs given the preferences to government for preferred sources of energy even when such types of energy do not supply the needs of the population. I had a challenging time scaling down her email to read on air but I thought Joan asked important questions. Listen to Paul's response and post your thoughts on these issues on our blog. Joan's email came toward the end of the program. \
Another part of the discussion I found interesting was when a listener asked Paul about weaponizing SSP. Paul's answer might surprise you so do listen to it. I found his technical explanation of why SSP would not make a weapons system to be very interesting. Once again, let us know your thoughts by posting on the blog what you think about SSP as a potential weapons system.
Earlier in the program the discussion on power beaming not always referring to space solar power was of interest. Our guest said SSP would use power beaming but given the different purposes for and uses of power beaming, one could easily have a power beaming project having nothing to do with SSP. Paul did a great job in explaining this to us. A related topic dealt with frequency allocation issues which came up mid program. This was a big deal as Paul explained in a lengthy discussion with us. Rather than detail this part of the discussion, let me just urge you to pay close attention to the subject when Paul talked about it. Frequency and related concerns will be big issues for SSP as the technology with demos and tests evolve.
Fremont John called to talk specifics about the work Paul was doing with PRAM, the AFRL SSPIDR program, demos and X-37B. Once again, I highlight this part of the discussion which was in the early part of the program as it served as a foundation for other talking points and comments later on in our 92 minute program. After Paul had taken us through the past and current R&D and John's series of quality questions, listener Frank's email cut to the chase and asked Paul when SSP would be able to start commercial operations. Paul said this was a frequently asked question but do listen to all of what he had to say. Listen to how Paul addressed uncertainties and unknowns in his answer. From this discussion we took on energy costs and issues, including storage batteries and terrestrial solar. Then our friend Marshall called from Oklahoma. Marshall asked about manufacturing SSP hardware from lunar materials. Paul had lots to say in response to this question.
Paul introduced us to the concept of specific power and the economics behind it. He talked about four factors regarding baseline power costs including launch costs, the costs for the needed hardware, life expectancy of the hardware, and specific power which is defined as power output by mass or as our guest said, watts/kilograms. Our guest talked quite a bit about the significance of specific power so don't move on until you understand the importance of it.
As we were nearing the end of the show, SSP challenges were mentioned including objections by the astronomy community regarding interference and the same with ham radios. Throughout the program, antennas for SSP, LEctennas, were a hot topic. Paul told us that the NRL had put out a simple video on YouTube on how to build a LEctenna. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3j7sAjWgySQ. Before ending the program, Paul provided us with a short and concise summary.
Please post your comments/questions on our blog for this show. You can reach Dr. Jaffe through me here at The Space Show.