NSS Applauds Northrop Grumman/Caltech Push Toward Space Solar Power

The National Space Society (NSS) applauds a recent Northrop Grumman announcement that it is providing up to $17.5 million to an initiative with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the development of Space Solar Power (SSP). SSP will be a major focus at NSS’s annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC)® in Toronto on May 20-24 (nss.org/2015).

NSS Executive Vice-President Dale Skran said, “We are delighted to see Northrop Grumman and Caltech taking a significant step toward creating a future that includes space solar power, a major step in the settlement of space. At a time when the U.S. Government has virtually abandoned SSP research it is encouraging to see private industry and universities stepping forward to fill the gap.”

Establishment of an operational space-based solar power system transmitting the sun’s energy to Earth is Milestone 8 in the NSS Space Settlement Roadmap (nss.org/RoadmapPart3). SSP could be a particularly attractive way to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people in developing countries that don’t have electricity due to a lack of both power generation and transmission infrastructure.

Construction of significant numbers of Solar Power Satellites will create a large new market for transportation to orbit, greatly enhancing current trends toward lower launch costs and reusable rockets. This scenario establishes the groundwork for affordable space settlement – on the Moon, on Mars, among the asteroids, and in Free Space. A possible side-benefit of this project would be improved power sources for “electric” (ion/plasma) rockets, currently planned by NASA to play a key role in trips to Mars and other destinations.

The Northrop Grumman/Caltech initiative will focus on three areas: high-efficiency ultra-light photovoltaics, ultra-light deployable space structures, and phased-array power transmission. Up to 50 students, post-docs, and senior researchers will eventually join the team, who will use specialized laboratories constructed for the initiative.

A good place to find an overview of the current state of SSP work is the NSS Space Solar Power home page at nss.org/ssp. A wide variety of SSP material can be found there, ranging from reviews of recent books like The Case for Space Solar Power by NSS Policy Committee member John Mankins, to the world’s largest library of Space Solar Power free downloadable PDF books and reports.


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National Space Society

2 thoughts on “NSS Applauds Northrop Grumman/Caltech Push Toward Space Solar Power”

  1. Technology like this robotic assembly and build in space could significantly forward the space based solar power effort.. Telerobotic equipment in LEO could be particularly useful as well.. Operators on the ground could have real time control over assembly tools in LEO this provides the dynamic resourcefulness of the human worker and reduces the complexity of the robotics.. Less complex and costly robotic tools yet more adaptable and efficient by incorporating the human minds controlling the equipment from the comfort of the surface of the Earth..

  2. This technology will greatly increase the transmission efficiency of beamed electrical power.. This is a big step forward for space based solar power..

    The ESA – European Space Agency’s research in Telerobotics is key to paving the way to an ambitious space exploration agenda.. Telerobotics will give astronaut explorers the ability to so much more… Astronauts could operate these robotic systems to do a myriad of tasks from a distant location or even from orbit.. Operating robotic systems on the surface of distant worlds from orbit is a much less expensive, simpler and safer way of exploration.. Telerobotics will without a doubt find many other uses in various industries where there value will be proven…

    ESA’s Telerobotics and Haptics Lab
    The ESA Telerobotics & Haptics Laboratory is an engineering research laboratory that performs fundamental research in the domains of telerobotics, mechatronics, haptics and human-robot interaction. The Laboratory output is targeted at supporting novel spaceflight projects by pre-development and demonstration of critical technologies.

    To achieve our space exploration goals we need to deal with two major problems.. The effects of 0 G on the human body and the effects of radiation on the human body..
    We need a large spacecraft to facilitate artificial gravity and some form of radiation mitigation.. Modular in construction for easy adaptability for different missions with different objectives.. Transporting astronauts up and down from the Earth’s surface using any of the existing spacecraft to a larger craft that stays in space.. The same construction methods and resupply methods we currently employ for missions on the International Space Station.. A streamlining and standardization of space hardware manufacturing could make for more cost effective space exploration and science.. The same components used to construct a space vessel and orbiting platforms above the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Venus, Europa etc…Streamlined manufacturing systems have furthered nearly every industry in history.. Why not spaceflight?.. Practical solutions with long term policy commitments will make a progressive path to a better future.. Remember… Every dollar invested in space exploration returns more than 12 to the economy..


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