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-   -   Proposal: Power Generation Teams (http://forum.juhlin.com/showthread.php?t=5852)

dragoon500ly 03-06-2019 10:27 AM

Proposal: Power Generation Teams
 
Power, can’t live without it!

One of the staples of science fiction is the Solar Power Satellite (SPS) that orbits the earth, absorbing power from the sun and then beaming to receivers on Earth. It’s an interesting concept for the Project as there would be a need for energy at levels beyond what the fusion power packs can provide. So here is a little background…

In 1968, a Czech-born physicist/engineer named Peter Glaser posted a brief article on this topic in the November 1968 issue of the journal Science. He would later be awarded a patent in 1973 for this concept. NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) would later begin a four-year, $19.6 million study of the concept of a Solar Power Satellite.

Glaser had noticed that a satellite in geosynchronous Earth orbit, 35,786 kilometers above the equator, would pass through Earth's shadow for only a few minutes each year. In this orbit, the satellite would move at the same speed as the Earth’s rotation (1,690 kph). This would result in that for a person on the Earth’s surface, the satellite would appear to remain in the same spot over the equator. Allowing for the possibility of electricity to be ‘beamed’ from the satellite to a ground-based receiver.

Glaser’s theory was that the electricity would be converted into microwaves and be beamed to a receiving antenna (rectenna) on Earth where it would be converted back into electricity and then distributed to the power utility grid.
With the satellite positioned over the equator and moving at the same speed as the planet’s rotation, it would generate power for roughly half the day and then sit dormant during the night period.

But there is just one problem, for the SPS to contribute a meaningful amount of power. It has to be big, as in colossal. In order to generate five gigawatts of power, with modern technology, a SPS would measure 10.5 kilometers long by 5.2 kilometers wide and would mass over 50,000 metric tons.

The rectenna would measure in the area of two kilometers or so across. To meet just the electrical needs of the U.S. at current levels, would require 60 SPS generating some 300 gigawatts of power.

There is also the problem of building the SPS. Due to their size, they have to be constructed in orbit and this requires transport.

To give an idea of the scale, considered this, the largest single-launch U.S. payload ever put into low earth orbit (LEO) was the 77 tons of the Skylab Orbital Workshop, which was launched using a two stage, Saturn V rocket. To reach GEO would require a three stage Saturn V rocket, with a gross liftoff weight of 3,000 metric tons. The Space Shuttle has a gross liftoff weight of 2,040 metric tons. In order to achieve the necessary cargo space, a vehicle (Space Freighter) would have to be designed with a gross liftoff weight of 11,000 metric tons.

Ouch!

Another construction method is to build a ‘dockyard’ in LEO and then tow the completed SPS into GEO. The best NASA estimates would see two SPS being lifted into LEO each year. EACH SPS would require about 200 Space Freighter launches as well as hundreds of OTV transfers between the dockyard and GEO. The additional propellants for each would demand even more Space Freighter launches.

Despite extensive reliance on automation, NASA/DOE estimated that at least 1,000 astronauts would have to be in space at all times. Then there is the support staff, which could, conservatively outnumber the astronauts by at least 10 to one.

Now this material is pulled from the original study, but based on what I’m seeing so far, SPS are a non-starter as far as the Project goes, after all we are talking a major space project just to get several fairly large satellites into orbit, stating that security would be impossible would be an understatement!
This leaves us with two possibilities for a Power Generation Team, multi-fuel generators, coupled with an almost impossible logistical chain (the large generators can average a fuel usage of 5,000 gallons per day!). Or extensive use of fusion power plants.

Another problem would be the MASSIVE scale of hardware to support a Power Team, think of the tens of thousands of feet of cable, transformers, etc to power a small town.


Thoughts?

mmartin798 03-06-2019 10:53 AM

The Desert Search module does have a description of Morrow Power Stations. They come in two flavors, hydroelectric and fusion, fusion being rare according to canon. The power station described in detail is TN-7, a fusion power station. They address the power distribution problem by using satellites. It stated that here is one for each power station and that the power station transmits the power to its satellite, which then redirects the microwave beam back to the location where the power is needed. Since the power is generated on the ground, the satellite is much smaller, though you do lose energy twice from heating up the atmosphere both on the trip up and down.

This solution is not entirely satisfying either. The satellites would still be rather larger, on the scale of tens of meters to accommodate two microwave dishes and radiation fins to handle the heat build up. Maybe slightly smaller than the ISS. Power is needed, but how to get it to where it is needed is no small matter.

dragoon500ly 03-06-2019 03:26 PM

My mistake, I should have added that the Power Generation teams are to be mobile units, its a work in progress but I'm tending towards a larger, but portable fusion pack than is listed in TM 1-1, something capable of putting out 3-5,000 kilo volts.

StainlessSteelCynic 03-06-2019 07:17 PM

For a mobile unit, maybe you want to consider some of the latest generation nuclear reactors? The last decade has seen a lot of thought put into creating smaller and/or portable reactors. The SSTAR is an example that's probably a bit too big for what you want but effectively illustrates the ability to design a small transportable reactor.
More in line with what you're looking for is the proposal from Los Alamos, a reactor able to be transported by truck.
SSTAR
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small,...nomous_reactor
https://www.newscientist.com/article...-power-plants/
Los Alamos reactor
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2018/0...or-design.html

There's also the push for creating component type, small reactors that can be manufactured in sections, delivered to a site and then assembled as the end-user requires.
General info on small nuclear reactors
https://www.rolls-royce.com/products...eactors.aspx#/
https://www.engadget.com/2018/05/02/...clear-reactor/
https://www.popularmechanics.com/sci...re-on-the-way/
http://www.world-nuclear.org/informa...-reactors.aspx
https://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/th...tra-1832135363

And this pdf of a 1968 article is worth a quick read
http://large.stanford.edu/courses/20.../aec-oct68.pdf

dragoon500ly 03-06-2019 07:53 PM

Thanks for the links!

I'm just settling in on the research for this, but the major stumbling block that I've not figured a way round yet is the cables, transformers, distribution panels and all the extra stuff necessary to restore power for, say a town with a population of 1,500. We are talking about a couple of hundred thousand pounds of equipment, just to restore essential services! I'll be posting the recommend material and weights later.

Woohoo I'm thinking a combination of a power station, as in Desert Search, with mobile teams equipped with a couple of fusion powered generators and a lot of cables...


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