The Plan to Move Power Plants into Orbit
Space Canada, in cooperation with the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) has just announced the final speaker line up for their 2009 Symposium on Solar Powered Satellites being held next week at the Ontario Science Centre.
The symposium, hosted by Bob Macdonald (the national science correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and host of CBC Radio One’s “Quirks and Quarks”) is expected to attract an international assortment of academics, economists, global warming pundits and space focused legal experts along with representatives from provincial, federal and international government and non-government organizations plus dedicated space activists and quite a few others.
Speakers include Dan Fortin (the CEO of IBM Canada), Marc Garneau (MP for Westmount-Ville-Marie), Dr. Robert Zee (Manager of the UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory), John Mankins (former NASA and CalTech Jet Propulsion Laboratory policy guru) and others.
So what will they be talking about, you may ask?
They'll be talking about space based solar power (SBSP) which, according to Wikipedia is "a system for the collection of solar power in space, for use on Earth. SBSP differs from the usual method of solar power collection in that the solar panels used to collect the energy would reside on a satellite in orbit, often referred to as a solar power satellite (SPS), rather than on Earth's surface."
Here's a video from futurist David Houle attempting to provide some context for the overall thrust of the space power advocates in Canada, the US and elsewhere.
Here's a higher level discussion on space solar power provided by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The idea does have quite a few international backers at this point and yesterday, Bloomberg even ran this news report announcing that Mitshubishi Electric Corp. and IHI Corp. will be joining a $21 Billion Japanese initiative to develop the technology needed to build a space solar power satellite. The effort is being coordinated through the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
I am personally a little cautious about the financial, the engineering and the political difficulties surrounding an effort of this nature. I remember how even Werner Von Braun was wrong once in awhile, especially when he advocated the immediate creation of large expensive space infrastructures to do things that could best be done in a smaller scale way.
But I would also like to see what the organizers, attendees and participants at the symposium have to say when it's concludes.
They may perhaps know things that I don't.