Undertaking GEO space solar power

America’s growing macro-engineering expertise

In the 1800s, American engineers began to undertake significant infrastructure construction projects to transform colonial America into a modern industrial nation. These began with the National Road and the Erie Canal in the early 1800s; canals and river steamship lines in the  1830s–1850s; the first Transcontinental Railroad, the Brooklyn Ridge at New York City, and the Eads Bridge at St. Louis in the 1860s–1870s; over 200,000 miles of railroad track and the beginnings of the telecommunications industry by 1900. In the 20th century, macro-engineering projects, such as the Panama Canal and the Hoover Dam, were undertaken as America’s technological and industrial capabilities advanced.

21st century focus on space macro-engineering projects

Manhattan Island as seen from space. (Credit: NASA.)
Manhattan Island as seen from space. (Credit: NASA.)

Undertaking GEO space solar power will require substantial construction activities in space as well as on the Earth. Upwards of 1000 space solar power platforms, each roughly the size of Manhattan Island, will be built in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) to supply most of the nearly 5,000 GW of power needed for Americans to replace fossil fuels. On the ground, an equivalent number of ground receiving stations, each about twice the size of Manhattan Island, will be built across the contiguous United States to receive the power transmitted from the GEO platforms. In total, the ground receiving arrays will utilize about 40,000 square miles of land—slightly larger than the state of Ohio. Both the space segment and the ground segment will be immense, decades-long, construction efforts dwarfing past efforts such as the Panama Canal and Hoover Dam.

Establishing commercial human spacefaring logistics capabilities

Large space settlement to house workers and families involved in building space solar power platforms. (Credit: NASA.)
Large space settlement to house workers and families involved in building space solar power platforms. (Credit: NASA.)

Undertaking GEO space solar power will involve creating immense new American space power, space mining, space manufacturing, space settlement, and spacefaring logistics industries.

Undertaking GEO space solar power will be a human space enterprise. For example, if each of the new 1000 GEO space solar power platforms requires a workforce of just 100 people to manage, operate, and maintain the platform and its support staff—a facility the size of Manhattan Island—100,000 Americans will be permanently living in space by 2100. If the world needs 10,000 of this platforms, one million people will be living in space just to operate and maintain the platforms after they are built. Obviously, several times more people will be involved in mining resources on the Moon and the asteroids, converting these resources into platform components, transporting people and materiel throughout the central solar system, building the platforms and other facilities, and housing and supporting workers and their families throughout Earth-Moon space and the inner asteroid belt.

The first step to initiate this immense new national space effort is establishing the integrated commercial human spacefaring logistics infrastructure to open, first, Earth-Moon space and, then, the central solar system to commercial human spacefaring operations.

The coming spacefaring age

While many believe that talking about 100,000 Americans living in space is fantastical, consider the image above. This is a composite radar map of the commercial airliners flying above the United States on a typical morning or afternoon. The image shows 5,050 aircraft. In broad numbers, hundreds of thousands of people are flying above our heads every day and we don’t give it a second thought. Yet, a century ago, this would have been viewed as fantastic. A century from now, commercial human spaceflight throughout the central solar system will be as common as commercial air travel is today. Just as the 20th century saw America become a leading aeronautical nation, this century will see American become a leading commercial spacefaring nation.