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Issue 17
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Multi-Nation WPT Demonstration Experiments

Ohio Students: Max Alvarez, Harold Bon, Jason Butler, Jimmy Clark, Kent Engle, Ben Felix, Tyler Goldberg, Colin Mercer, Shelby Roades, Zoe Seszut, Michael Stephens, Jiexiong Zhang, Anthony Zoccola

GTech Students: Chinar Patel, Ben Leon, Scott Bennet, Roger Lascorz, Oscar Pierre , Somil Shah, Rahim Panjawani, Nicole Dowling, Natasha Barbely

Advisors: Prof. N. Komerath, Prof. D. Flournoy, Kyle Perkins (Designer)

Multi-Nation WPT Demonstration Experiments

Narayanan Komerath, Prof., Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta GA; Don Flournoy, Prof., School of Media Arts and Studies, Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University, Athens OH


A project originating with Georgia Institute of Technology is described in which the International Space Station (ISS) serves as an experimental platform for the relay of energy from space to earth. The multi-nation test will feature the transmission of small amounts of solar-generated electric power from the ISS using millimeter waves, for the purposes of collecting atmospheric propagation data and testing technologies for power beaming, aiming, and reception. This initiative represents an early first-step towards installation of a global Space Solar Power Grid emphasizing international collaboration, synergy with the terrestrial energy industry and with retail power beaming markets. The technical paper on which this visualization is based is listed in References below.

Five-Nation 2013 from Space Journal on Vimeo.


The objectives of this experiment are to:

  1. Demonstrate safe generation and transmission of 220 GHz beams from the International Space Station;
  2. Obtain data on pointing error to various locations on Earth over a 90 degree azimuth, through day-night and seasonal variations;
  3. Obtain data on beam spread at 220 GHz to locations worldwide.
  4. Obtain data on beam attenuation at 220 GHz to locations worldwide under different atmospheric conditions; correlate with meteorological data, and
  5. Set up template for international collaboration re. space solar power.

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The in-space experiment will include:

  • 1 kWe millimeter wave generator, amplifier, waveguide link and thermal control system, in Express Logistics Container (ELC), Antenna-Waveguide in second ELC for deployment using manipulator arm;

  • 2m x 2m transmitting antenna pointing downward from a truss location (S3/P3 nadir), or from a Columbus ELC point. Clear view for phase-array beam sweep 45 degrees fore and aft, and 10 degrees side to side;

  • Ground stations co-located with solar power plants wherever possible. Candidate locations are frequently under the ISS orbital path;

  • Collect data on beam aiming, link quality, weather, atmospheric attenuation, spillover and efficiency for 3 years; and

  • Fine-tune frequency for best transmission, if possible.

The ground experiments will include: - Bench-scale development of 220GHz generation, amplification, transmission, reception, reconversion;

- Increase distance: bench, long waveguide, ceiling, pole, tethered aerostat, waveguide to aerostat, aerostat-ground, aerostat-aerostat, aerostat-balloon; - Increase power: Effect of beam on air, tunneling through moist air; and

- Frequency optimization.

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Experiment basic requirements/expectations

1. Delivery to ISS by vehicle of the SpaceX Dragon class.

2. Retrieval, attachment and deployment by ISS manipulator arm.

3. Power: 1 kW DC power input; 100 watts cw 220 GHz waveguide output.

4. Beam shall point anywhere within 45 degrees forward, sweep steadily to 45 degrees aft, and/or 10 degrees to port or starboard.

5. Unobstructed visibility from the transmitting phase-array antenna.

6. Accuracy of 10 meters CEP at ground target achieved within 10 orbits.

7. Low-power laser link activate along main power beam path.

8. Beaming cutoff within 1 millisecond of link loss; Re-activate only by reset.

9. Continuous data exchange to operate immediately prior to, during and following power transmission, between the ISS system and ground receiver facility.

10. Simultaneous communications with 5 stations plus controller.

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When Space-based solar power provides the 4 to 8 TWe needed to replace terrestrial fossil primary electric power, we can expect to see a constellation of 4000 to 8000 satellites in space orbit, each delivering on the order of 1 Gigawatt of electric power (1GWe) to the terrestrial power grid. Looking up from any point on Earth, one should expect to see one or two of these satellites within one’s range of vision at any time. Most nations will be participants and partners, even more than with today’s communications satellites.

The massive global investment needed for this enterprise will require a commercially viable, revenue-generating progression. We can expect significant advances to have occurred before the risks, superstitions and other obstacles will have been systematically confronted, overcome or circumvented. Numerous architecture options have been proposed. This experiment is a necessary first-step in the direction of an eventual solution to making energy from space a profitable operation.

Space Solar Power is within reach. The primary uncertainties at the moment are in the generation and 
beaming of millimeter wave power. The next-step proposed is a multinational experiment where up to 6 waveguide satellites are placed in orbit. Beamed power will be exchanged between different parts of Earth through Space, modeling, demonstrating and refining real-time power exchange that will enable renewable power plants on Earth to radically improve their business prospects. This is the starting point of the Space Power Grid.


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