Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power

An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy

Committee for the Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy

Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.



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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy Committee for the Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C.

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Contract No. NASW-99037, Task Order 105, between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number: 0-309-07597-1 Available in limited supply from: Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board HA 292 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 (202) 334–2855 Additional copies are available from: National Academy Press Box 285 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W. Washington, DC 20055 (800) 624–6242 (202) 334–3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area) http://www.nas.edu Copyright 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES National Academy of Sciences National Academy of Engineering Institute of Medicine National Research Council The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M.Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm.A.Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I.Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M.Alberts and Dr. Wm.A.Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy COMMITTEE FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF NASA’S SPACE SOLAR POWER INVESTMENT STRATEGY RICHARD J.SCHWARTZ, Chair, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana MARY L.BOWDEN, University of Maryland, College Park HUBERT P.DAVIS, Consultant, Canyon Lake, Texas RICHARD L.KLINE, United Satellite Launch Services, Great Falls, Virginia MOLLY K.MACAULEY, Resources for the Future, Inc., Washington, D.C. LEE D.PETERSON, University of Colorado, Boulder KITT C.REINHARDT, Air Force Research Laboratory, Albuquerque, New Mexico R.RHOADS STEPHENSON, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (retired), La Canada, California Liaison from the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board DAVA J.NEWMAN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge Staff KAREN E.HARWELL, Study Director, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board LEE SNAPP, NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program— NRC Visiting Fellow, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board GEORGE M.LEVIN, Director, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board MARVIN WEEKS, Senior Project Assistant, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (May 2000 through March 2001) MARY LOU AQUILO, Senior Project Assistant, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (March through June 2001) ANNA FARRAR, Administrative Associate, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ENGINEERING BOARD WILLIAM W.HOOVER, Chair, U.S. Air Force (retired), Williamsburg, Virginia A.DWIGHT ABBOTT, Aerospace Corporation (retired), Los Angeles, California RUZENA K.BAJSCY, NAE, IOM, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia WILLIAM F.BALLHAUS, JR., NAE, Aerospace Corporation, Los Angeles, California JAMES A.BLACKWELL, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired), Marietta, Georgia ANTHONY J.BRODERICK, aviation safety consultant, Catlett, Virginia DONALD L.CROMER, U.S. Air Force (retired), Lompoc, California ROBERT A.DAVIS, The Boeing Company (retired), Seattle, Washington JOSEPH FULLER, JR., Futron Corporation, Bethesda, Maryland RICHARD GOLASZEWSKI, GRA Inc., Jenkintown, Pennsylvania JAMES M.GUYETTE, Rolls-Royce North America, Reston, Virginia FREDERICK H.HAUCK, AXA Space, Bethesda, Maryland JOHN L.JUNKINS, NAE, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas JOHN K.LAUBER, Airbus Industrie of North America, Washington, D.C. GEORGE K.MUELLNER, The Boeing Company, Seal Beach, California DAVA J.NEWMAN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge JAMES G.O’CONNOR, NAE, Pratt & Whitney (retired), Coventry, Connecticut MALCOLM R.O’NEILL, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Bethesda, Maryland CYNTHIA SAMUELSON, Logistics Management Institute, McLean, Virginia WINSTON E.SCOTT, Florida State University, Tallahassee KATHRYN C.THORNTON, University of Virginia, Charlottesville ROBERT E.WHITEHEAD, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (retired), Henrico, North Carolina DIANNE S.WILEY, The Boeing Company, Los Alamitos, California THOMAS L.WILLIAMS, Northrop Grumman, El Segundo, California Staff GEORGE LEVIN, Director

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy Preface In 1968, Peter Glaser advanced the proposition that solar energy could be collected by Earth-orbiting satellites and then beamed by means of microwaves to power stations on Earth’s surface. The energy collected would be converted to electricity and introduced into commercial power grids for use by customers. Both the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) examined the concept in the late 1970s and early 1980s; however, the program was canceled. In 1995, NASA decided to take a fresh look at the feasibility, technologies, costs, markets, and international public attitudes regarding space solar power (SSP). This Fresh Look study1 found that much had changed. Key technologies needed for the construction, deployment, and maintenance of SSP satellites, such as composite materials, modular fabrication, and robotics for construction and repair, had all shown significant advances. During this period, public concerns about environmental degradation grew. The committee also noted that such environmental concerns are, if anything, even more intense today than in the days of the Fresh Look study. As a result of this study, the U.S. Congress became interested in SSP and in FY 1999 appropriated funds for NASA to conduct the SSP Exploratory Research and Technology (SERT) program. The SERT program and its follow-on, the SSP Research and Technology (SSP R&T) program, constitute the effort assessed in this report.2 In March 2000, NASA’s Office of Space Flight asked the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council to perform an independent assessment of the space solar power program’s technology investment strategy to determine its technical soundness and its contribution to the roadmap that NASA has developed for this program.3 The program’s investment strategy was to be evaluated in the context 1   Feingold, Harvey, Michael Stancati, Alan Freidlander, Mark Jacobs, Doug Comstock, Carissa Christensen, Gregg Maryniak, Scott Rix, and John Mankins. 1997. Space Solar Power: A Fresh Look at the Feasibility of Generating Solar Power in Space for Use on Earth. Report No. SAIC-97/ 1005. Chicago, Ill.: Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). 2   The SERT program was established in FY 1999 and continued through FY 2000 by U.S. congressional appropriation. An additional appropriation was also funded for SSP Research and Technology (SSP R&T) for FY 2001. Decisions on internal NASA budget allocations for FY 2002 were pending during the preparation and review of this report. As a result of recent agency wide realignments, future SSP programs may be included within other NASA initiatives. Throughout this report the term “SERT program” or “SERT effort” refers to both the 2-year Space Solar Power Exploratory Research and Technology (SERT) program during FY 1999 and 2000 and the follow-on effort in FY 2001, referred to as the SSP Research and Technology (SSP R&T) program. The terms “SSP program” and “SSP effort” refer to any planned future program in SSP technology development and are used in recommendations to NASA. 3   This assessment evaluates the SERT program and the follow-on SSP R&T efforts through December 15, 2000. Program changes after that date are not included.

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy of its likely effectiveness in meeting the program’s technical and economic objectives. The scope of this study did not include assessments of the desirability of space-generated terrestrial electrical power or assessment of the ability of NASA’s space launch development efforts to provide the capability needed to deploy a space solar power system. The Committee for the Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy of the National Research Council has completed an approximately 12-month study evaluating the technology investment strategy of NASA for SSP. A copy of the statement of task for this study is included in Appendix A. In conducting its review, the committee was not asked to assess, and it did not comment on, the ultimate economic viability of producing terrestrial solar power from space. The committee sees the wisdom of investing some of this nation’s resources in a number of potential approaches for dealing with future energy needs. This is particularly true when the committee considers the potential payoffs from this investment to other NASA, government, and commercial programs. This report provides an assessment of NASA’s management of its SSP investments and provides recommendations on how its technical investment process can be improved. The committee recognized that NASA deliberately excluded “lowering the cost of access to space” (i.e., development of new Earth-to-low-Earth-orbit launch vehicles) in its roadmap for SSP technology development. The committee understands and accepts NASA’s rationale for this decision. NASA has a major program devoted to lowering the cost of access to space. Given the relatively small amount of funding earmarked by Congress for space solar power technology development, little could be accomplished (and much would be lost) by using these program resources to help lower the cost of access to space. This study was sponsored by NASA and conducted by a committee appointed by the National Research Council (see Appendix B). The statement of task directed the committee to (1) evaluate NASA’s SSP efforts and (2) provide an assessment of its particular investment strategy for a potential program in SSP technology research and development. In order to effectively prioritize and balance investments across several technology areas, rigorous modeling and system analysis studies are usually performed. NASA began this process during the SERT effort. Preliminary technology and programmatic investments were presented to the committee based on this modeling and seem realistic, taking into account the level of funding made available to the program. The committee believes that this approach is one useful technique for assigning technology investment priorities and determining the relative payoff from technology investments. The committee discovered during its meetings, however, that many of the modeling inputs were suspect and that more refinement and better validation were necessary before additional decisions were made regarding technology investment balance. Consequently, the committee agreed that it would be inappropriate to evaluate the actual magnitude of funding in each technical area. Comments on the relative amounts for various technologies are included. As a result of low overall program funds during the past 3 years, the program has been forced to make much smaller investments than desired for research in various technical areas. Due to this mismatch between the actual funding and program plan, the committee believed it was critical to evaluate the organizational foundations, modeling methodologies, and program management style on which the future SSP investment strategy will be based (despite levels of funding available to the program). These issues led the committee to perform a two-part assessment of the program, providing (1) an evaluation of the total program investment strategy, management, and organization and (2) an evaluation of each individual SSP-related technology area. The structure of the following report is based on these two factors. The committee was not asked to evaluate technology development in SSP-related areas in the United States or worldwide or to evaluate any other NASA or non-NASA programs in technology development, whether related to SSP or not. As a result, no other technology program structure was assessed or mentioned in the report. However, knowledge of the state of the art in various technical areas is necessary to effectively evaluate any research and technology effort. Various options for generating power from space have been suggested (and researched) during the past 30 years, including the Lunar Solar Satellite Concept proposed by David Criswell, among others. The committee did not consider such competing concepts for solar power from space but concentrated solely on the NASA SERT program. To this extent, the committee has focused on the program at NASA and its relationship with industry and other efforts in SSP-related technology. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and tech-

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy nical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Minoru S.Araki, Lockheed Martin Corporation, retired, Richard Green, International Power and Environmental Company, Joel Greenberg, Princeton Synergetics, Inc., Nasser Karam, Spectralab, Inc., Thomas J.Kelly, Grumman Corporation, retired, Leeka I.Kheifets, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Mark S.Lake, Composite Technology Development, Inc., F.Robert Naka, CERA, Inc., and Stephen M.Rock, Stanford University. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Gerald L.Kulcinski, University of Wisconsin, appointed by the NRC’s Report Review Committee, who was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. The committee also thanks those who took the time to participate in committee meetings and provide background materials (see Appendix E). The committee is especially indebted to Karen Harwell, study director, for her unflagging support of the committee and her help every step of the way. Lee Snapp, a NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program visiting fellow, contributed to the introduction and international sections of the report, and George Levin, director, Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board, was particularly helpful in interpreting and clarifying the committee’s charge. Richard J.Schwartz, Chair Committee for the Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   INTRODUCTION   9     1-1 Electricity and Solar Power,   9     1-2 Background,   10     1-3 Study Approach,   11     References,   11 2   OVERALL SERT PROGRAM EVALUATION   12     2-1 Evaluation of Total Program Plan and Investment Strategy,   12     2-2 Applications,   23     2-3 International Efforts,   25     References,   27 3   INDIVIDUAL TECHNOLOGY INVESTMENT EVALUATIONS   29     3-1 Systems Integration,   29     3-2 Solar Power Generation,   34     3-3 Space Power Management and Distribution,   37     3-4 Wireless Power Transmission,   40     3-5 Ground Power Management and Distribution,   42     3-6 Space Assembly, Maintenance, and Servicing,   43     3-7 Structures, Materials, and Controls,   47     3-8 Thermal Materials and Management,   51     3-9 Space Transportation and Infrastructure,   53     3-10 Environmental, Health, and Safety Factors,   56     3-11 Platform Systems,   60     References,   60

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy     APPENDIXES         A Statement of Task   65     B Biographical Sketches of Committee Members   66     C Example of NASA’s SERT Program Technology Roadmaps   69     D Brief Overview of NASA’s Space Solar Power Program   73     E Participants in Committee Meetings   77     F Acronyms and Abbreviations   79

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Laying the Foundation for Space Solar Power: An Assessment of NASA’s Space Solar Power Investment Strategy Tables and Figures TABLES ES-1   Proposed Space Solar Power Program Resources Allocation, FY 2002 to FY 2006,   2 2-1   NASA’s SERT Program—Model System Category Definitions,   13 2-2   Proposed Space Solar Power Program Resources Allocation, FY 2002 to FY 2006,   17 D-l   Proposed Space Solar Power Program Resources Allocation, FY 2000 to FY 2016,   76 FIGURES ES-1   Key recommendations to the NASA SSP program,   3 2-1   NASA’s SERT program: research and technology schedule of milestones roadmap,   14 2-2   NASA’s SERT program: strategic research and technology goals,   16 3-1   NASA’s SERT program integration process,   30 C-l   Sample SERT progam executive summary chart on solar power generation activity,   70 C-2   Sample SERT program goal chart on solar power generation activity,   71 C-3   Sample SERT program milestones chart on solar power generation activity,   72 D-l   Generic space solar power system,   74 D-2   Generic microwave and laser SSP systems,   74

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