Orbital Power Grid

  • Friday, January 6, 2012
  • Archimedes
  • Labels: , , , ,
  • Ever since the advent of communications and navigation via satellite, there was always a demand for more and higher quality satellites to service the new systems. Thanks to the large bulk of most commercial satellites and the high cost of launching payload into orbit, currently around 3,000 USD per pound for a small rocket, the satellite industry in general has barely grown since its inception. In an economy plagued by speculation and lack of consumer demand, there are always telecommunications companies, oil and mineral companies, military organizations, and even third-world countries seeking a chance to put their own platform into space, and the industry of making that task easier could be quite a lucrative one indeed.

    If we take a closer look at today's satellite systems, every continuously functioning satellite in orbit uses large solar power cells that can sometimes account for up to half of the mass and/or volume of the satellite which they power, if only there was a readily available power source out there in orbit, then future launches will only have to send up the core components absolutely critical to a satellites function, reducing the bulk and weight of the launch payload and making the process a simple matter of designing the most compact and efficient transmitter/receivers, taking the concern of power generation and management off the list of engineering worries.

    Although setting up a commercially viable power grid in space seems a daunting task of astronomical proportions, I believe it is quite possible given that the earth acts like a giant magnet in space. Given this fact, our orbital power grid does not even need generators, all it really needs is a large web of conducting cables connected by transformer pylons. Cables of a strong and conductive metal alloy stretched over a long distance and quickly rotating around a magnet that is our earth effectively acts as a huge DC current generator, and the resulting power is then converted and redirected to functioning satellites at key pylon satellites which by their paths of orbit keep the cables taunt.

    An advantage of this system is that all an incoming satellite needs to do is to reach very low earth orbit, connect itself to a pylon via cable, and then drag itself along the cable to a higher orbit. With this in mind, not only now would we need to send up less material, we also don't have to send it up as high. These factors working together should make it possible for even small companies to send up their own private communications satellites.


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