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Japan building space-based power plant

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Mk
#1
Sep8-09, 12:52 PM
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http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?p...d=aF3XI.TvlsJk
http://www.scientificamerican.com/bl...r-p-2009-09-02
Japan is developing the technology for the 1-gigawatt solar station, fitted with four square kilometers of solar panels, and hopes to have it running in three decades, according to a 15- page background document prepared by the trade ministry in August. Being in space it will generate power from the sun regardless of weather conditions, unlike earth-based solar generators, according to the document. One gigawatt is enough to supply about 294,000 average Tokyo homes.
Well this should be interesting. Japan is one of the leading nations in nuclear power and is not afraid to make breakthroughs in technology and engineering.

I remember when I was 7 years old and would play Sim City 3000. The best power plant you could build was the one where satellites would beam down a maser of energy generated from solar radiation. The future will be cool.

Future aircraft and avians will have to watch out to avoid getting fried.
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russ_watters
#2
Sep8-09, 06:22 PM
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Raise your hand if you think this will happen?









Didn't think so.

Some interesting tidbits from the articles:
($21 billion) Japanese project intending to build a giant solar-power generator in space within three decades...

the 1-gigawatt solar station
Assuming all of that is accurate, they are intending to provide the equivalent power of 1 nuclear reactor for twice the cost and taking twice as long to build (assuming pessimistic estimates for the nuclear plant and including US-like regulatory hurdles).
And other government agency estimates put the price tag for space solar at $1 billion per megawatt
So existing US government research/studies imply they are off in their price estimate by a factor of 5.

B-O-O-N-D-O-G-G-L-E.
Integral
#3
Sep8-09, 06:36 PM
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I am with Russ, this is just too expensive. Another problem, the geocentric orbits are already crowded, at least over areas where you would need the power, so I doubt that there is room in that orbit for the huge antenna needed for this project. Now if they do not put the power station in a geocentric orbit a single receiving station is not possible. Now you need to first track the receiving station, then make a jump to the next as it comes over the horizon.

Cyrus
#4
Sep8-09, 06:44 PM
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Japan building space-based power plant

If Japan doesn't build this where will James Bond go to save the world and enjoy Asian cuisine? Recall the last time he was in Japan they were sending russian rockets into space out of a volcano and hijacking US space capsules.

Topher925
#5
Sep8-09, 09:17 PM
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Its a cool idea and while it will work I just don't think it is cost effective. I think there are more than one companies working on the same concept although I don't think any have proven it to be economically viable. One of my professors has a pretty good blog write up about this, I'll see if I can find it.
mgb_phys
#6
Sep8-09, 09:41 PM
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I welcome our space based giant magnifying glass overlords.
WhoWee
#7
Sep9-09, 07:59 AM
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That's a mere $70,000 per home - what a deal!

Maybe they could offset some of their development costs by magnetizing it - to collect space junk for a fee.
Ian_Brooks
#8
Sep9-09, 11:50 AM
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why not pour that money behind iter and get us fusion energy faster?
mgb_phys
#9
Sep9-09, 12:58 PM
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Quote Quote by Ian_Brooks View Post
why not pour that money behind iter and get us fusion energy faster?
Because the money doesn't exist. USEF is a small think-tank/quango outside the Japanese space agency.

They are no more likely to actually build or launch this than when some darpa funded researcher at a US university talks about legions of flesh eating robot zombie soldiers.
WhoWee
#10
Sep9-09, 01:01 PM
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Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
Because the money doesn't exist. USEF is a small think-tank/quango outside the Japanese space agency.

They are no more likely to actually build or launch this than when some darpa funded researcher at a US university talks about legions of flesh eating robot zombie soldiers.
Maybe there's a little room in the stimulus plan for a little joint venture?
mheslep
#11
Sep9-09, 03:01 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
Raise your hand if you think this will happen?



Didn't think so.

Some interesting tidbits from the articles: Assuming all of that is accurate, they are intending to provide the equivalent power of 1 nuclear reactor for twice the cost and taking twice as long to build (assuming pessimistic estimates for the nuclear plant and including US-like regulatory hurdles). So existing US government research/studies imply they are off in their price estimate by a factor of 5.

B-O-O-N-D-O-G-G-L-E.
Since when have boondoggle projects been deprived of funding?
Five, ten years ago the Japanese could not find enough boondoggles to fund. There's the airport without planes, and this $10B subway extension that nobody needed.

So no hands raised if you phrase the question "Is this a practical alternative", but phrased "if you think this will happen", and they gave themselves 30 years - you might well lose that bet.
Proton Soup
#12
Sep9-09, 03:12 PM
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not sure boondoggle is the right word here. it's a proof of concept. lots of engineering will go into designing something that hasn't been built before. but if there's anything the japanese are good at, it's building thousands of them smaller and cheaper.

or, maybe it's just a japanese cash-for-clunkers program. keeps their economy "stimulated" and keeps scientists and engineers and whatever technological know-how they've accumulated in-country.

in any case, it's a lot less silly than lunar/mars missions.
mheslep
#13
Sep9-09, 04:01 PM
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Another thought occurs: if space based solar power is placed in the same category as space exploration, especially manned, i.e. do it because a) we-want-to-see-if-we-can, and b) we'll make scientific and engineering advances along the way, then this project wins out in my mind over collecting another bag of rocks from the Moon, or even the first from Mars.
russ_watters
#14
Sep9-09, 04:34 PM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
Since when have boondoggle projects been deprived of funding?
Five, ten years ago the Japanese could not find enough boondoggles to fund. There's the airport without planes, and this $10B subway extension that nobody needed.
The difference is in whether it will happen or not. Building a subway no one needs is still a functional subway. This project is not even intended to happen. The MO is the same as Bush's promised trip to Mars:

1. Promise the moon (or Mars, or in this case, the Sun). Be sure the timeline of your promise far exceeds your term in office.
2. Attach a cost to it. It doesn't matter if the cost is realistic or not, attaching a cost shows commitment.
3. Put together a funding schedule that starts with small-scale studies for you, now; and real engineering and development costs that have to be comitted by someone else, a few years from now.
4. Commit just enough funds to the project to keep a few hundred engineers running around on hamster wheels, generating reports, until your term in office expires.
5. Leave office and hand the completely worthless project off to your successor.

This just in:
WASHINGTON — A White House panel of independent space experts says NASA's return-to-the-moon plan just won't fly.
The problem is money. The expert panel estimates it would cost about $3 billion a year beyond NASA's current $18 billion annual budget.

"Under the budget that was proposed, exploration beyond Earth is not viable," panel member Edward Crawley, a professor of aeronautics at MIT, told The Associated Press Tuesday.

The report gives options to President Obama, but said NASA's current plans have to change. Five years ago, then-President George W. Bush proposed returning astronauts to the moon by 2020. To pay for it, he planned on retiring the shuttle next year and shutting down the international space station in 2015.

All those deadlines have to change, the panel said. Space exploration would work better by including other countries and private for-profit firms, the panel concluded.

The panel had previously estimated that the current plan would cost $100 billion in spending to 2020.

Former NASA associate administrator Alan Stern said the report showed the harsh facts that NASA's space plans had "a mismatch between resources and rhetoric." Now, he said, Obama faces a choice of "essentially abandoning human spaceflight" or paying the extra money.
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science...a-future_N.htm
Raise your hand if this surprises you.







Didn't think so.

So no hands raised if you phrase the question "Is this a practical alternative", but phrased "if you think this will happen", and they gave themselves 30 years - you might well lose that bet.
No, I'd bet my house on it.....well, maybe my car.

Possible exception: The ISS has been kicked-around since the early '80s. I toured a life-sized mockup of the then Space Station Freedom when I went to Space Camp in around 1989 (also in the hanger, a life-sized mockup of the Shuttle-C to heft it into orbit). I fully believe Reagan intended this to happen and he comitted real development money to the project, but the timeline still required commitment across multiple administrations, making it difficult to sustain/complete the project.
mheslep
#15
Sep9-09, 04:41 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
...

No, I'd bet my house on it.....well, maybe my car.
Tempting bet, unless you drive an clunker.
russ_watters
#16
Sep9-09, 04:48 PM
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Quote Quote by Proton Soup View Post
not sure boondoggle is the right word here. it's a proof of concept.
If you are referring to this:
The trade ministry and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which are leading the project, plan to launch a small satellite fitted with solar panels in 2015, and test beaming the electricity from space...
....you are reading something into it that isn't there. Don't worry - it is intentionally misleading:

-The actual work being started is 4 years of research on wireless power transfer. No promise of even a prototype/proof of concept delivery was attached to that (in the article). That's in paragraph 2, which contains the only real news in the entire article.
-4 years doesn't take you to 2015, so we cannot conclude from the article that the proof of concept satellite is being funded. The timeline mismatch and lack of a statement about a deliverable in the one paragraph of real news implies that it isn't.

This is funding for 4 years of running engineers around in hamster wheels, nothing more.
mheslep
#17
Sep9-09, 04:50 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
The difference is in whether it will happen or not. Building a subway no one needs is still a functional subway.
This space gizmo in no way disables the existing power grid. I'm sure it will be much less obtrusive than all the torn up subway streets. Worse case they're out $20B worth of tax yen.

This project is not even intended to happen. The MO is the same as Bush's promised trip to Mars:

1. Promise the moon (or Mars, or in this case, the Sun). Be sure the timeline of your promise far exceeds your term in office.
2. Attach a cost to it. It doesn't matter if the cost is realistic or not, attaching a cost shows commitment.
3. Put together a funding schedule that starts with small-scale studies for you, now; and real engineering and development costs that have to be committed by someone else, a few years from now.
4. Commit just enough funds to the project to keep a few hundred engineers running around on hamster wheels, generating reports, until your term in office expires.
5. Leave office and hand the completely worthless project off to your successor.
Yep, trouble is many real long term big ticket programs have that same look in the beginning. The ISS as you note was/is a good example. Heck subways are often a 10-20 year gig.

This the country of space borne Godzilla foes. I think they're due for something like this.
russ_watters
#18
Sep9-09, 04:52 PM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
Tempting bet, unless you drive an clunker.
2004 Mazda 6i, 102,000 miles. I'd guess it is worth about $8 grand. I love that car. But I consider this easy money.

Would you also like to bet on Australia's "Solar Tower"? Remember that one?


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