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Energy for Earth from Space: SPS-ALPHA
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
7:30 p.m.
Zupnik Lecture Hall (Jeong H. Kim room 1110)
For More Information:
Catherine Stephens
301 405 9378

In December 2015, the great majority of Earth’s nations, recognizing the urgent need to mitigate the looming risks of climate change, announced ambitious goals for the reduction of CO2 emissions this century. At the same time, global demand for energy continues to expand with increasing populations and the need for improved economic conditions in all countries. In the judgment of many experts, these potentially-conflicting goals are unlikely to be accomplished solely through the use of already-existing technologies (such as hydro, terrestrial solar and wind power). Among other important options, Space Solar Power (SSP) remains one of the most-promising, but as yet largely undeveloped options to accomplish this goal. 
During 2008-2011, the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) accomplished the First International Assessment of Space Solar Power, involving diverse subject matter experts (SMEs) from some ten (10) countries. The IAA assessment found that SSP is technically feasible and that it might be realized in as little as 10-15 years. Following on those results, in 2011-2012 an international team, working under the auspices of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program examined a novel, more practical hyper-modular approach to realizing SSP: “SPS-ALPHA” (Solar Power Satellite by means of Arbitrarily Large Phased Array), invented by the author.
Together, the IAA and NIAC studies framed the foundation of an integrated treatment of the topic, “The Case for Space Solar Power” (published in 2014), which presented the first single-volume, integrated and detailed discussion of the topic in some 20 years. 

In the past several years, new ideas for SSP in general and improvements in the SPS-ALPHA concept in particular have emerged. These include related developments in space and terrestrial technologies (e.g., reusable launch systems), new SSP activities internationally (e.g., new commercial efforts), as well as innovations in how SSP might be accomplished (e.g., in-space fabrication). This presentation will summarize some recent advances in the SPS-ALPHA concept and examine both the architecture and the potential impact of the update approach on the technical feasibility and economic viability of space solar power.


About the speaker:
John Mankins, President of Mankins Space Technology, is an internationally recognized leader in space systems and technology innovation, and as a highly effective manager of large-scale technology R&D programs.


Mr. Mankins' 25-year career at NASA and CalTech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) ranged from flight projects and space mission operations, to systems level innovation and advanced technology research & development management. He is also well known as an innovator in R&D management, having published the first detailed definitions of the Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) in 1995, and promoted the use of the scale by the US Department of Defense in the late 1990s.
Before leaving NASA, Mr. Mankins was the manager of Exploration Systems Research and Technology within the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate with responsibility for an $800M annual budget, involving more than 100 individual projects and over 3,000 personnel. For 10 years, he was the manager of Advanced Concepts Studies at NASA, and the lead for critical studies of space solar power, highly reusable space transportation, affordable human exploration approaches, and other topics. He was the creator or co-creator of numerous novel concepts, including the 'MagLifter' electromagnetic launch assist system, the Internet-based NASA 'Virtual Research Center' the 'Solar Clipper' interplanetary transport vehicle, the 'SunTower' space solar power system, the 'Hybrid Propellant Module' for in-space refueling, the 'HabBot' mobile planetary outpost architecture, the Advanced Technology Life cycle Analysis System (ATLAS), and others. In recognition of his accomplishments, he has received numerous awards and honors, including the prestigious NASA Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal (of which he was the first recipient).
He holds undergraduate (Harvey Mudd College) and graduate (UCLA) degrees in Physics and an MBA in Public Policy Analysis (The Drucker School at Claremont Graduate University). Mr. Mankins is a member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) and Chair of the Academy Commission III (Space Systems and Technology Development); and a member of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the Sigma Xi Research Society.
Mr. Mankins has authored or co-authored more than 80 published papers, reports and other technical documents, and has testified before Congress on several occasions, and has been consulted on R&D management and space issues with organizations in the U.S. and internationally. He is the author of “The Case for Space Solar Power.”

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