Talk #95, 5/13/15

Thermal Power Satellites

(See update at the bottom from June 2016)

Keith Henson
Founder, L5 Society

IMG_1151 (1)

An intriguing concept for sustainable energy production is to convert solar power to electricity on an orbiting earth satellite and then transport the power to earth for terrestrial use. Power satellites, both photovoltaic and thermal, offer the possibility of electricity from space at less than the cost of electricity from coal. Instead of the more common photovoltaic systems used to generate electricity in space, this talk is about thermal power satellite design. Thermal power satellites use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and boilers, turbines and condensing radiators to make electricity.   For the system concept in this talk, each satellite is rated at five GWe and the energy will be beamed to the ground via microwave. We present an initial design with mass estimates for the major parts of such a power satellite.  Radiator design is considered in detail since it is unique to power satellites.   In addition, the talk will include an animated video of the transportation and construction process. We will show that to be economically viable, power satellites must cost less than $2400/kW. This cost requires a specific mass of no more than 6.5 kg/kW for a lift cost to GEO (geosynchronous Earth orbit) of $200/kg.

The following is a link to the Powerpoint presentation, which unfortunately does not include the movie Keith showed during his presentation:


Here is a link to a YouTube presentation of the long video animation that Keith showed at the beginning of his presentation:

Thermal Power Satellites

Here are a couple much shorter relevant animations:

Thermal Power Satellite Animation #1

Thermal Power Satellite Animation #2

Finally, here is a link to the Lyncean Coin presentation that includes a “Star Wars” parody that everyone seemed to like.  After you have downloaded it, open it and watch it as a Slide Show to see the animations:

Henson Coin Presentation

For those of you who enjoyed Keith Henson’s talk on power satellites May 2015, he has some new animations that you might like to view:
The second one was shown April 20 at the White House in conjunction with the D3 contest won by Lt. Col Peter Garretson of the Air Force and Dr. Paul Jaffe of the Naval Research Lab.