You Are My Sunshine
Solar Panels in Outer Space
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  • William Nevins

    Actually, this is not a particularly new idea–I recall hearing about it during the energy crises of the 70’s. What is new (one hopes) is that this Japanese has the funding to carry it out… Assuming that they really do. More likely they are publicizing the idea in the hope go getting funding. I wish that

  • Jim__L

    “because launching things in to space isn’t cheap.”

    One interesting solution to this problem is to use near-Earth asteroids (like the one NASA is talking about hauling back to Earth) to recover dozens (or hundreds) of times more mass than you launch.

    Producing solar power satellites out of this material has some interesting manufacturing challenges associated with it, but these are hardly beyond human ingenuity. There are actually some talented people working on the problem right now.

  • Breif2

    “in geosynchronous orbit, these panels could produce power ‘nearly 24 hours a day.'”

    I’m in general agreement with the post, but an instant’s thought about the word “geosynchronous” should be enough to realize that the above statement is self-evidently preposterous.

    • Jim__L

      Satellites in geosynchronous orbit are in direct sunlight at all times, with the following exceptions:
      – When eclipsed by the Moon
      – When eclipsed by the Earth

      Geosat batteries are typically scaled to provide power to the satellite through both events in a row — a bit over 90 minutes.

      These happen during “eclipse season”, which is around the equinoxes; due to the Earth’s axial tilt, having an orbit directly over the equator only results in being in Earth’s shadow when the line between the Earth and Sun is near perpendicular to the line of Earth’s axis of rotation.

      So, for nine months out of the year, the satellite is in full sunlight pretty much all the time; for about a month and a half every summer and fall, they have outages for as much as 94 minutes (usually less) once a day.

      (If this is still too imprecise, please Google “geosynchronous satellite eclipse season” and check out Intelsat’s page on the subject.)

      • Breif2

        First, thanks to Jim for taking the time to try to clear things up.

        Second, I completely retract my previous comment, which was based on poor assumptions on my part regarding celestial geometry, and apologize for the original scoffing and the accusation of imprecision.

        • Jim__L

          To be fair, the article doesn’t go into much detail, and the above details aren’t well known outside of the industry.

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