Space-based solar power is an idea whose time may have come, at least in the views of some in China, needing the US to respond appropriately. (credit: NASA)
by Peter Garretson
Monday, July 1, 2019
For the first time in decades, the United States deals with a severe difficulty. A brand-new area race is upon us to secure the benefits of a large and broadening space economy. Whether it was grain for horses and soldiers; wind and waterwheels for factories; coal for railways; coal or oil for steamships; petroleum for cars and trucks, tanks, and aircrafts; or atomic energy for cities and submarines, energy has been main to both commerce and military power.
|To safe America’s continuing benefit in the area domain, the President should tap the Secretary of Energy to develop an instant and sustained action to safe space energy dominance.|
At the center of China’s prepares to surpass the United States as the leading spacepower by 2045 are huge aspirations for space energy dominance. China’s military has currently begun a peacetime strategic offensive to safe and secure a position of energy dominance. Within this grand strategy are 4 different initiatives that need a reaction:
- Energy maneuverability dominance utilizing area sourced propellant
- Global energy supremacy with space solar power and space power beaming
- Deep space maneuver benefit with nuclear propulsion
- Fusion energy benefit with helium-3
While there is considerable ability within both NASA and the DoD, the bulk of our country’s competence that can be brought to bear to respond to the Individuals’s Republic of China’s peacetime military offensive lies within our Department of Energy. To protected America’s continuing advantage in the space domain, the President should tap the Secretary of Energy to establish (in concert with NASA and the US S speed Force) an instant and continual reaction to protected area energy supremacy. To guarantee continued focus, the DoE should rearrange internally and sit on the National Space Council.
Energy maneuverability supremacy utilizing area sourced propellant
US Air Force fighter pilot John Boyd was the first to present the principle of Energy Maneuverability Theory as an explanation of maneuver benefit. Lowering energy expenses are secret to minimizing cost and time to market for in-space transport of products for in-space building and construction. Energy maneuverability advantage is also key to both fight benefit and military logistical advantage. There are particular positions within the Earth-Moon system that offer substantial maneuver advantage. The ability to source rocket fuel from the Moon or asteroids is a substantial force multiplier. The lunar poles are equivalent to forward coaling stations during our nation’s marine expansion, and propellant depots offer force extension analogous to aerial refueling. The PRC’s tactically smart push to secure access to the “great lakes”of frozen water ice (600 million metric loads) need to be met in kind with our own national willpower to access lunar propellant to build on-orbit propellant depots and refuelers.
The freshly formed US S pace Command is already behind the PRC in lacking its own peacetime strategic military offensive, and will be run-down in its duty if it does not right away specify the requirements to the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council and National Area Council for space-sourced propellant, in-space refueling, and in-space transport to meet the PRC challenge.
As a remedy for this circumstance, the Administration need to task the Secretary of Energy to coordinate with the NASA A dministrator, Commandant of the US S pace Force, and Secretary of Commerce, to develop a plan to retire all technical risk for a cryogenic hydrogen/oxygen propellant depot with reversible fuel cells for electrolysis, and a parallel strategy for a Lunar Industrial Center (LIF) to produce and launch the needed water-ice to renew it. The strategy needs to establish objectives and standards for refueling of reusable lunar landers.
Global energy dominance with space solar power and area power beaming
Central to the PRC’s plans is to develop the innovation to develop very big on-orbit power stations capable of catching gigawatts of power and beaming it to Earth and anywhere in the Earth-Moon system. Even at the megawatt class prepared for their 2030 prototype, this is a game-changing dual-use technology. The United States at present has, at a lot of, 100 kilowatts of power on the Worldwide Space Station.
|The DOE program should seek, via public-private partnerships, to retire the technical risk toward commercially practical utility-scale space solar power.|
The tactical threat, though, fades in significance to the tactical hazard. The PRC’s strategic strategy to take over United States hegemonic power is to produce—through continual nationwide effort—the innovation to build solar power satellites, and then to usage the material from the Moon to build them cheaply to become the significant supplier of Earth-based energy. Power that is city-baseload proper, that can scale to the whole of international need, that can be sent anywhere on Earth as required, and that is 100 percent green and non-carbon producing will be appealing to most nations. Today the Persian Gulf and the couple of chokepoints for oil are the strategic center, with the secret energy manufacturers—the US, Russia, OPEC—having considerable coercive power. If the PRC succeeds in its plans, it will be the significant energy supplier to world Earth, and with that, huge economic power to force others to submit to their geopolitical designs.
To fulfill this strategic difficulty, the administration need to task the Secretary of Energy, at a minimum, to preserve parity and seek tactical advantage with regard to business space solar power and beamed energy production. This program ought to not look like the DOE’s fusion science program, which has no timeline or objective for commercial energy production. Rather, the DOE program ought to look for, by means of public-private collaborations, to retire the technical risk towards commercially practical utility-scale space solar power.
Central to this goal ought to be a buddy and parallel method to establish multiple public-private partnerships at a Lunar Commercial Center (LIF) with the goal of mining, benefacting, and launching 90 percent of the structural mass required to build a model megawatt-class solar power satellite model in geostationary orbit ahead of the PRC strategies for 2035—the aim need to be a 100- megawatt center in GEO by 2034.
Deep space maneuver advantage with nuclear propulsion
America has long understood that true spacefaring will require nuclear power propulsion. For a years it led the field with project NERVA, and again later on with job TIMBERWIND and Space Nuclear Test Program (SNTP). However a absence of political nerve let this management suffer. Now the PRC is open with its style to have nuclear shuttle bus making it possible for it access for asteroid mining, exploitation, and colonization by 2040. Nuclear thermal rockets have more than two times the efficiency of standard rockets, making it possible for much larger payloads and much much shorter travel times in the solar system. It would be like asking a merchant fleet equipped with only sails to keep up with a merchant fleet equipped with oil. Or, it would be like asking an air force equipped with props to contend with an air force with all jet fighters. To contend successfully as a area power, the United States must have a matching peacetime strategic offensive in area nuclear power and propulsion.
Therefore, the Administration ought to task the Secretary of Energy to build a portfolio of public-private collaborations to ensure continual United States benefit in advanced space propulsion, including fission, fusion, antimatter and high-energy beamed propulsion. At a minimum, it should ensure parity such that the US is never ever behind on any considerable test or release timeline for nuclear propulsion. In every case, the DOE ought to have a shift technique to a private US commercial provider comparable to the NASA industrial cargo and crew programs.
Fusion energy benefit with helium-3
The PRC’s focus to possibility for lunar helium-3 is evidence of the broader strategic intent to lead in fusion power and fusion space propulsion. The truth that today’s innovation can not attain continual “over-unity” blend is immaterial—we understand that physics makes this possible, and it is simply a matter of continual investment and ingenuity till this is accomplished. Already there are various business in the United States and other countries developing combination technologies using compact devices, and even fusion-powered rockets. These are all starved for funding because of a lack of national function and an hesitation to face the reality of a serious rival for space hegemony. Helium-3 is prized since as a combination fuel, it produces virtually no neutron radiation, allowing for sustained fusion that neither degrades the reactor structure nor produces hazardous radiation to humans. Notably, there is not just thousands of years of helium-3 on the lunar surface, however substantial concentrations of helium-3 in the external solar system.
Therefore, the Administration ought to job the Secretary of Energy to develop a long-term method to establish a portfolio of public-private partnerships to lead commercial fusion development for space power and area propulsion, with a parallel method to establish an ability to mine lunar helium-3.
The worth of lunar industrialization and a lunar industrial center
At the nexus of each of these strategic efforts is the Moon. This administration’s focus on returning to the Moon rapidly is laudable. It is also meaningful to hear real conversation of sustainability, of reusability and of making usage of the resources of the Moon. However, without a specific strategy to set up a lunar industrial facility—without articulated milestones for material production—it is worthless and ephemeral.
|It will take at least a generation to undo the hostage “close area support” mentality of the existing generation and, through education, construct a prospering generation of space specialists focused on the strategic measurements of spacepower.|
A push to the lunar surface area without a clear plan for commercial development is a tactical error of the very first order. What matters the to future of American power is not who gets to the Moon or Mars first, however who can make use of the energy and material resources of the Moon to transform to financial power and to the military-logistical power required to safe that space commerce from coercion.
Therefore, the most important policy choice is to decide on the building of a Lunar Industrial Center (LIF) that will develop the needed industrial and logistical elements of the new space economy. That need to be done with the private sector, and with the intention of production at scale. That is not expedition. NASA’s multi-decade tone-deafness to exploitation and industrialization at scale, versus unique exploration, likely implies the United States can not delegate the long-term security of its interests to NASA, which stays exploration and destination focused.
The Department of Defense has also showed a similar tone-deafness to even military logistical development, believing that peacetime military offensives and advancement of dual-use industries must be “somebody else’s job.” The fact that military logistical development of cislunar area has not been a part of the posture statements of US S trategic Command, of the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Personnel of the Air Force, or Air Force Space Command demonstrate the extant absence of vision of space as an independent instrument of national power; it is the most compelling factor for the push by Congress and the Administration for a devoted Space Command and Area Force. Nevertheless, because the leadership will be the very same actors, neither the Administration nor Congress can be confident that our military space specialists will secure American interests. It will take at least a generation to undo the hostage “close space support” mindset of the current generation and, through education, develop a succeeding generation of area specialists focused on the tactical dimensions of spacepower. Sadly, we can not wait that long to respond to the extant and growing subversion of our national security.
|America, a nation of pioneers, inhabitants, and entrepreneurs, looks for a vision meaningful enough to activate them. Developing the huge energy and material resources of the inner solar system for totally free peoples is that vision; a new American Dream.|
The Department of Commerce certainly appreciates the strategic truths and is prepared to lead, but it lacks the vast publicly-owned centers of our national laboratories or their considerable technical budget and expertise. Therefore, due to the fact that energy in the kind of fuel, propellant, power, and propulsion are absolutely central to continued United States economic and military benefit, the Administration should mobilize the Department of Energy to safe and secure America’s future advantage in area.
Given the substantial lead that the PRC has in their own peacetime armed force advantage, the Administration need to not hold-up in providing a Area Policy Regulation that puts the Secretary of Energy on the National Area Council, and jobs them to develop, lead, and carry out a strategy to ensure American space energy supremacy.
That Area Policy Regulation ought to job clearly the DOE to:
- Develop (in concert with NASA, Dept of Commerce, and DoD) prepares for a scalable Lunar Industrial Facility with optimum usage of public-private partnerships to establish mining, benefaction, in-situ manufacture and launch at-scale to be provided to the National Space Council before January 1, 2020.
- Develop a strategy to ensure parity and pursue benefit in sophisticated space nuclear power and propulsion, guaranteeing a roadway to commercial transition with a flight presentation of a nuclear thermal rocket no later than 2024.
- Develop technologies and commercial companies for cryogenic propellant depots and extraction of lunar propellant for commercial and government use with initial operations start no later on than 2028.
- Develop prospecting studies and innovation to gain access to lunar nuclear material (uranium, thorium, and helium-3) with initial operations beginning in 2028.
- Develop a strategy for a Lunar Commercial Facility to produce 90 percent of the structural mass of parts for a 100- megawatt prototype solar power satellite in GEO by 2034.
A vision of area expedition is too little for America. America, a nation of leaders, inhabitants, and entrepreneurs, seeks a vision meaningful adequate to activate them. Developing the large energy and product resources of the inner solar system for free peoples is that vision; a brand-new American Dream. This is the American dream with financial and military effects large adequate to win or lose the next American century. America has what it takes to come from behind and win this huge frontier of opportunity however it should not hold-up.
The mission of the Energy Department is to guarantee America’s security and success by attending to its energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology options.
The Secretary of Energy bears a special responsibility since just those in the Department of Energy are in a position to appreciate the nearly inestimable advantage that area energy dominance will supply to the nation that protects it. Its large resources and talent ought to not be left un-mobilized in this brand-new area race, however to mobilize them a Area Policy Instruction is required.
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