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Itai Mutemeri

Aug 18, 2017
03:08

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I think this is an out of this world idea! What kind of impact (energy/safety/monetary) do you think it would need to have in order for this to be a more attractive alternative to current energy solutions?


Dana Barish

Aug 19, 2017
07:56

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Current energy solutions are extremely costly. Aside from energy/safety/monetary we must consider human lives. Current energy solutions are changing the climate. Do we have a cost figure for that? While other proposed solutions might be less costly initially per kilowatt hour, space elevator technology also scales for types of pollution other than heat and carbon dioxide. In the long run we may be faced with a need for "out-sourcing" our polluting industries to space unless we can reduce population growth. Even some "renewable" energy sources can cause unforeseen problems. Carpeting the planet with solar panels (currently coming in only one color: black) may result in the absorption of more solar heat as the reflective average of the earth's surface proceeds to black. Indeed someone ought to calculate the curves of population growth/power needs versus arable land and also population growth/power needs versus non-arable land suitable for solar panels. At some point we might have to decide whether a piece of land is allocated to food or power.

We must also assume that climate change may result in more unexpected catastrophic events. Changes in ice fields and sea levels may, for example, produce an increase in seismic activity due to shifting weight on tectonic plates. I'm not sure how hardened we can make nuclear power plants/wind towers/solar panels to seismic activity. There are no tectonic plates in space.


Betsy Agar

Aug 19, 2017
01:19

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This takes thinking "out of the box" to a whole new level! So, I'll try to keep up that spirit in my comments.

Recognition of our potential to create future problems while trying to solve current ones really resonates with me, and I have also asked that specific question: "What happens to all of that additional heat we are absorbing rather than deflecting?" Also, your point about the sun being the original nuclear power plant, while not new, prompted some thoughts that I hadn't had before. It seems to me that you are somewhat agnostic about the source of energy used in the power plant and more focused on the tethering technology and technique. That leads me to ask:

  • If tethering is feasible, then why not limit the power source it to solar panels--which, as you've said, should theoretically harness solar energy 24 hours a day--to avoid the nuclear waste of power plants and capturing additional solar heat at the Earth's surface?
  • If the sun is the original nuclear power plant, then why not continue to use nuclear and send our nuclear waste into the sun's core? This presumes we can avoid Earthbound disasters like in Japan's, but lends credence to nuclear being clean because the waste would not be a lingering problem.
  • Why not redirect all the effort to tether to the Earth into nuking space waste with the sun itself?Is anyone working on this tethering idea? If so, what are the other applications where it would be useful?

 

I love your creativity!


Dana Barish

Aug 20, 2017
07:36

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Solar panels might be the lowest tech for power source options however they do come with some problems. I don't know what they use on the space station but normal panels probably can't handle the extreme conditions of space. Assembly is another problem as I don't imagine tethered orbits to favor human intervention. Robots might be required. Robots might also be useful in cleaning and repairing panels. I'm not sure how often maintenance is required for panels at the space station. A direct solar absorption or nuclear plant could be more easily shielded from debris etc. I did see a suggestion once that growing crystals in space is easier. Perhaps a mini-solar panel factory could be included in the satellite.

Sending nuclear waste into the sun from the earth's surface has a few problems. Nuclear waste is heavy since most fission reactors require extremely dense nuclear material. Lifting that mass might be expensive. It would be interesting to see an analysis of energy derived from nuclear material versus the energy required to send it to escape velocity. One option might be to design a rocket using the nuclear material as fuel by using water heated to vapor by the nuclear material, essentially a bottle rocket. Another option might be to use nuclear waste's weight itself and go in the other direction, into the earth's core (see other proposal Sun Beneath Our Feet).

Many of the technologies required for space elevators are being developed independently. I am not sure any large effort is directed specifically toward space elevators but the concept has been around for some time (see Wikipedia).


Dana Barish

Aug 20, 2017
08:23

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P.S.

I'm not sure what the structural characteristics of current spent nuclear fuel is, however, it may be possible to construct a disposal rocket from the spent fuel itself, then to lift off and reach escape velocity, "just add water", assuming the waste is still hot enough to vaporize water. Nuclear power plants could be designed to include their own disposal system including launch pad. Already hot water could be taken from the reactor cooling system.


Dana Barish

Aug 20, 2017
11:28

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P.P.S.

It has been shown that crystal growth is enhanced in low gravity. It is possible that not only solar panel crystals might be created onboard but also the carbon nanotube used for the tether. One problem found with nanotube creation is imperfections that lower strength but might be significantly minimized by manufacture in orbit. The first tethered object in space might be devoted to manufacturing the nanotubes for other space elevators.


Michal Monit

Sep 5, 2017
03:10

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Dear Dana, 

Lots and lots of ideas there!

Let me add a few: 
- if we're reaching that far, why use a tether in the first place? and not wireless energy transfer and some geostationary orbits (or the Moon?)
- PVs seem to have quite a strong position in the space applications, but maybe we could develop some special fast-breeder reactors leveraging solar radiation and high-energy particles?.. 
- maybe we could use some of the outer space power plants to change albedo, to support global cooling?

Keep on aiming for the sky!


Dana Barish

Sep 6, 2017
10:09

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A tether may solve the problem of power transmission. Carbon nanotube tethers could conduct electricity back to earth. California Governor Jerry Brown was dubbed Governor Moonbeam for suggesting microwave energy could be send wirelessly back to earth and collected by a wire networs in less populted areas. A tether has a much smaller footprint. There are lots of ideas about generating power in space but a space-elevator based power plant is a good first step.


Sherman Braithwaite

Jan 24, 2018
11:59

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Probably because wireless power transfer only works between about "3 feet". Wireless power transfer is garbage technology that can probably give a person cancer. If it worked better, it would kill a person instantly. Where did some of you people get your theoretical degree in physics? Why do all of you get fooled by garbage technology? And yes, such things exist. Don't know nothing and ask for something. I am not surprised. When people solicit for proposals, they should remember, they know nothing. Stop growing a brain, when you are supposed to be learning instead. Stop being back seat weirdos.


Sherman Braithwaite

Jan 24, 2018
12:30

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P.S., that's not called a proposal creator. It is called a Synopsis Creator. The suckers that propose for the Synopsis, is called the "Proposal Creator.".

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