Solar Power Satellites. SSI at ISU

In 1987 Space Studies Institute Senior Associates Peter Diamandis, Todd Hawley and Bob Richards founded The International Space University. The ISU was envisioned to start as a floating yearly program bringing together the brightest and most Space-passionate students from around the world for a multidicipinary lab and lecture series based on the format of the SSI Space Manufacturing Conferences.[1]  It accomplished that goal and then some.

The first ISU, a nine week session held in 1988 at MIT, was bannered The International Lunar Intiative Design Project. According to Todd Hawley’s ASCE Space88 presentation, the ILI ISU hosted ‘over a hundred graduate students from a dozen countries (including The Soviet Union and China, which at the time was a very big deal), plus 12 faculty directors, 16 faculty advisors and many visiting lecturers.’

The Space Studies Institute’s direct official focus at that first session was Space Manufacturing and Resources in relation to the Lunar topic. SSI members including Dr. O’Neill, Gordon Woodcock, Peter Glaser, Bill Brown, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Walker and Andrew Cutler were on hand for that specific set of discussions and others. [2]

Would you like to sit in on one of the sessions? After you get a bit of background, hit full-screen on a new video from the Space Studies Institute YouTube Channel.

This video is the 1988 ISU Solar Power Satellite Roundtable, recorded during its transmission by Northeastern University. The question-and-answer hour puts you in the room with Dr. Peter Glaser (Arthur D. Little, Inc., the inventor of Solar Power Satellites), Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill (Princeton University physicist, co-founder and first President of The Space Studies Institute), William Brown (head of Raytheon Magnetron tube department, inventor of the Amplitron Cross Field Amplifier, first to show long distance wireless power beaming) and Makoto Nagatomo (Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, Tokyo [now JAXA]).

This is a meeting of the Masters… And…

It is not a museum piece of a future that humans have lost.

It is a valuable piece of research material on a set of technologies that study after study, decade after decade, conclude to be viable and important to no less than the fate of this planet.

Now, that last statement may sound off-putting and even rather ‘lunie’, but let’s remember the facts. Big things are not automatically silly things. Big, game-changing things are often hard to do and difficult for the uninitiated to quickly grasp from a handful of soundbites, but they are often found to be worth time and investment by people who take it upon themselves to learn about them.

SPS is one of the core reasons for all of those pretty giant space colony pictures that are linked so closely to SSI.

Folks sometimes get sidetracked by the upside-down view of houses in paintings and movies like Interstellar, they walk out of theaters thinking that large habitats are all about escapist fantasy. But The High Frontier Concept is not some Hollywood global evacuation story. And it definitely is not about creating useless ‘Matt Damon Elysiums’ for elites to look down on billions of poor souls condemned to a used-up planet’s surface.

The High Frontier Concept is about using the virtually unlimited and currently unconsidered Resources and Energy of Space to help all people have the option of better lives wherever they choose to live.

Yes, The High Frontier Concept is also about turning a profit, a profit to be re-invested in other profitable Space-Based manufacturing projects.

We think this SPS Roundtable is fascinating – and enjoyable – on many levels, and we hope you can make the time to listen closely to the entire video.

So why is SPS not happening? With all the NASA and Department of Energy and Boeing (and, and, and) studies concluding that it is a clear winner, why has it not left the gate? The knee-jerk rote answer (that some say is designed to simply stop more questions) is: “Launch Costs.” Truthfully though, the on-going problems, even post-Elon, of costs to lift masses from Earth are another handled aspect of the High Frontier Concept. We’ll be addressing that aspect with new pages over time, but if you listen closely to the video and poke around ssi.org a bit you just might be able to figure it out for yourself.

 

[find out more about the current thinking and work being done to bring Solar Power down to Earth by reading SSI Senior Advisor Dr. John Mankins’ book “The Case for Space Solar Power.” To order, click the link on the “SSI Bookshelf” Amazon widget at the upper right of ssi.org pages.]

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