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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 06:43:21 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Sirius View Post
Did you get to the other Air and Space Museum out by Dulles? I am right down the street from there... and ironically, have never been to that one.
I've been there several times.. They have an SR-71, which I've seen before on the Intrepid in NYC but I can't get enough of that plane. The space shuttle they have on exhibit was used for training and never actually went into space.. I like the fact that museum is in set in a hangar, but they need to expand it as there's not enough there imho...
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 12:44:31 PM   #12
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Nice job Sirius - I'm going to love this thread.
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 03:28:40 PM   #13
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Default Proxima Centauri

The closest star next to our star (sun):

Proxima Centauri (Latin proxima: meaning 'next to' or 'nearest to')[9] is a red dwarf star approximately 4.2 light-years (3.97 1013 km) distant in the constellation of Centaurus. It was discovered in 1915 by Robert Innes, the Director of the Union Observatory in South Africa. The star is the nearest star to the Sun.[8] Its distance to the second and third nearest star, which form the binary star Alpha Centauri, is only 0.21 ly (15,000 700 astronomical units [AU]).[10]

Because of the proximity of this star, its angular diameter can be measured directly, yielding a diameter one-seventh that of the Sun.[8] Proxima Centauri's mass is about an eighth of the Sun's, and its average density is about 40 times that of the Sun.[nb 2] Although it has a very low average luminosity, Proxima Centauri is a flare star that undergoes random increases in brightness because of magnetic activity.[11] The star's magnetic field is created by convection throughout the stellar body, and the resulting flare activity generates a total X-ray emission similar to that produced by the Sun.[12] The mixing of the fuel at Proxima Centauri's core through convection and the star's relatively low energy production rate means that it will be a main-sequence star for another four trillion years,[13] or nearly 300 times the current age of the universe.[14]

Searches for companions orbiting Proxima Centauri have been unsuccessful, ruling out the presence of brown dwarfs and supermassive planets.[15][16] Precision radial velocity surveys have also ruled out the presence of super-Earths within the star's habitable zone.[17][nb 3] The detection of smaller objects will require the use of new instruments, such as the proposed Space Interferometry Mission.[18] Since Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf and a flare star, whether a planet orbiting this star could support life is disputed.[19][20] Because of the star's proximity, it has been proposed as a destination for interstellar travel.[21]
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 04:13:27 PM   #14
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We're going to need some plastic sheets in here to keep people dry from the spray of heads exploding I'll be sure to keep the latest geekery flowing, here's just a few off the top of my head that always blow my mind:

-If the GPS satellites did not account for the fact that time is relative and 'ticks' at a different rate for the satellites than us (because of how fast they are moving, and because of 'Frame Dragging' caused by the earth), the one-third of one-billionth of a second that they 'lose' each day would throw GPS systems out of whack by six miles every day.

-Most next-gen 'theories of everything' hold that there are a HUGE number of other universes besides our own, something like 10^500th power. To put that in perspective, the scale of difference between the size of a single atom and the size of the entire universe is 'only' about 10^39. The sheer number of other universes means that any possible arrangement of atoms that could happen, has already and will continue to happen an infinite number of times. In other words, any possible past, present, or future alternate version of reality has already happened an infinite number of times somewhere else. Yes, there is another universe where you are Meghan Fox's panties , and another where you are Meghan Fox :mega ****ing shifty:. The distance to the closest universe hosting a parallel version of our own reality has been approximated, but it's so far away that if you were to have a 1 followed by zeros where each zero was represented by a single atom, there are not enough atoms in the entire universe to even come close to expressing the number.

-Time travel into the past is impossible. However, time travel into the future is already proven to be possible, albeit infeasible with current technology.

-Every single atom and element in the entire universe, EVERY single one, was created inside a star during its life or death (except for hydrogen, which was a product of the Big Bang itself). We are literally stardust.
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 04:54:01 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by phil97m3Blue View Post
-Every single atom and element in the entire universe, EVERY single one, was created inside a star during its life or death (except for hydrogen, which was a product of the Big Bang itself). We are literally stardust.
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 05:22:45 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by phil97m3Blue View Post
We're going to need some plastic sheets in here to keep people dry from the spray of heads exploding I'll be sure to keep the latest geekery flowing, here's just a few off the top of my head that always blow my mind:

-If the GPS satellites did not account for the fact that time is relative and 'ticks' at a different rate for the satellites than us (because of how fast they are moving, and because of 'Frame Dragging' caused by the earth), the one-third of one-billionth of a second that they 'lose' each day would throw GPS systems out of whack by six miles every day.

-Most next-gen 'theories of everything' hold that there are a HUGE number of other universes besides our own, something like 10^500th power. To put that in perspective, the scale of difference between the size of a single atom and the size of the entire universe is 'only' about 10^39. The sheer number of other universes means that any possible arrangement of atoms that could happen, has already and will continue to happen an infinite number of times. In other words, any possible past, present, or future alternate version of reality has already happened an infinite number of times somewhere else. Yes, there is another universe where you are Meghan Fox's panties , and another where you are Meghan Fox :mega ****ing shifty:. The distance to the closest universe hosting a parallel version of our own reality has been approximated, but it's so far away that if you were to have a 1 followed by zeros where each zero was represented by a single atom, there are not enough atoms in the entire universe to even come close to expressing the number.

-Time travel into the past is impossible. However, time travel into the future is already proven to be possible, albeit infeasible with current technology.

-Every single atom and element in the entire universe, EVERY single one, was created inside a star during its life or death (except for hydrogen, which was a product of the Big Bang itself). We are literally stardust.
Interesting stuff Phil....so you're saying I could be Megan's panties? That's all I really took away from that.
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 05:39:44 PM   #17
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This is the first glint of sunlight to be seen by human eyes from a lake on Saturn's moon Titan – although it comes to us via NASA's Cassini orbiter.

The reflection comes from a sprawling northern lake called Kraken Mare, which spans an area larger than the Caspian Sea.

Titan has dozens of lakes, which are thought to be full of liquid methane, ethane and other hydrocarbons that may make a hearty soup for life.

Cassini had already confirmed that there is liquid on the moon's southern hemisphere. But until recently, the northern hemisphere of the moon has been swaddled in winter darkness, and this glint of sunlight is the first sign of liquid there. It also suggests 1100-kilometre-long Kraken Mare is the moon's largest lake. The previous record-holder is a 235-kilometre-wide southern lake called Ontario Lacus.

(Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/DLR)
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 05:41:43 PM   #18
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000...atestheadlines

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THE SOUTH POLE—At the bottom of the world here, astronomers are building an observatory that uses the ice cap of Antarctica as a lens and the planet Earth as a filter.

They are after an elusive subatomic particle called a neutrino. By embedding sensors in a billion tons of the world's purest frozen water, the Antarctic ice sheet, they hope to capture the telltale blue spark from a rare collision in the ice between a neutrino from outer space and an ordinary atom. They have pointed the sensors downward, away from the sky, using the planet to screen out cosmic rays.

Mapping the Universe At the World's End

View Slideshow

Robert Lee Hotz/The Wall Street Journal
With its clear, frigid dry air and stable atmosphere, the South Pole has become a center for astronomy research.

More photos and interactive graphics
Each fleeting blue flash will offer a clue to a hidden cosmos. By plotting these sparks, like points on a graph, to reconstruct the neutrino's path through the ice, the researchers expect to trace that path directly back to its source. If all works as planned, later this year the scientists expect to be probing stellar cataclysms across the reaches of time and space.

Funded primarily by the U.S. National Science Foundation, this neutrino observatory is the largest astronomy project undertaken on the isolated southernmost continent. The array of sensors taking shape deep within the ice here—a telescope like no other—will cost $271 million. Thirty-five laboratories in seven countries will share the data.

"We are basically making a map of the universe with neutrinos," said senior project physicist Mark Krasberg from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Neutrinos are well suited to the purpose. Lacking an electrical charge and almost without mass, these particles usually pass through ordinary matter undisturbed. That makes them almost impossible to detect. But it also means that neutrinos, unaffected by normal matter, radiation or gravity, offer a way to penetrate recesses that light and the electromagnetic spectrum cannot reach.

Scientists believe that neutrinos have been produced steadily since the birth of the universe, especially during the life and death of stars. If they can detect neutrinos passing through Earth, astronomers think they can track the particles back to the nuclear fires that created them and gain new insights into exploding supernovas, neutron stars and gamma-ray bursts.

"It is a totally new way of looking at the sky," said project chief scientist Francis Halzen at the University of Wisconsin.

Called Ice Cube, the new South Pole facility is the latest attempt to broaden human perceptions of the universe with sensors attuned to wavelengths invisible to the eye. Telescopes sensitive to infrared, microwave, gamma ray, x-ray and ultraviolet frequencies led to the discovery of pulsars, quasars, black holes and radiation lingering from the Big Bang itself. No one knows just what neutrino astronomy may reveal. The researchers who first detected neutrinos from the sun and a distant supernova won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics.

"It is an unproven field," said physicist Thomas J. Weiler at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who is part of a 12-nation consortium developing the Extreme Universe Space Observatory, a separate project. "We are right at the edge now where optimism turns into realism."

The observatory is set almost entirely beneath the snow-drifted surface of the polar plateau, with 5,000 sensors arrayed in a quarter of a cubic mile of ice. Since 2005, crews have been lowering the glass-globed sensors wired together in strings of 60, like Christmas lights, into holes melted by hot-water drills deep into the polar ice sheet. There, they freeze in place. Once suspended within the ice, the sensors are positioned to capture the evanescent blue sparks.

"We are hoping to find something that no one could have predicted," said Mr. Krasberg, the project's senior physicist.

To gather enough data for practical astronomy, researchers needed an enormous detector, because interactions between neutrinos and ordinary matter are so rare, said astrophysicist Graciela Gelmini at the University of California in Los Angeles.

As a natural formation much larger than any man-made detector, the ice cap of Antarctica seemed made to order. Unusually pure, the ice is so transparent that optical sensors can pick up the spark of neutrino light from hundreds of yards away.

At this remote South Pole outpost, the engineering challenges are formidable. Every tool and gallon of fuel must be ferried thousands of miles. The drilling equipment filled 40 cargo flights, totaling a million pounds of gear.

At the height of the polar research season earlier this year, 50 scientists in hard hats and red parkas manhandled cables, hoses and glass electro-optical sensors atop an ice cap two miles thick. The air holds only 60% of the oxygen found at sea level. Frostbite, snow-blindness and altitude sickness are occupational hazards: Even breathing here is hard labor.

The scientists are using high-pressure hot water, not a metal drill, to melt each of 86 temporary wells 1.5 miles deep into the ice for each set of sensors. They must race to lower each set before the cavity freezes shut.

At the height of activity earlier this year, black water hoses snaked across the wind-drifted snow. Drill pumps thrummed loudly in the thin air.

"It is like the world's biggest car wash," said head driller Dennis Duling from the University of Wisconsin, shouting to be heard over the din.

The observatory should become fully operational by January. Dr. Weiler, from the separate project, has high hopes for its success. "I honestly think that Ice Cube will make a significant discovery within the year," he said.
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 05:48:16 PM   #19
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Plasma rocket could revolutionize space travel

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The headquarters of Ad Astra Rocket Co. doesn't catch the eye, at least until you step inside.

Inside an unsuspecting warehouse in suburban Houston, hidden behind a streetcorner strip mall, a team of elite engineers and enterprising physicists is busy developing a high-tech plasma rocket designed to carry humanity to the stars.

Founded in 2005, the company accomplishes most of its work just a few minutes from Johnson Space Center, the home of Mission Control.

The company's main project is the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, or VASIMR, a highly-efficient space engine running on electricity and argon gas instead of conventional solid or liquid propellants.

Franklin Chang-Diaz, the project's chief architect, says the VASIMR engine is the most flight-ready high-power electric propulsion system anywhere in the world.

"It is transformational technology that we are developing," Chang-Diaz said. "It always has been my view that chemical approach to space transportation really was not going to get us very far."


Quote:
Chemical rocket engines require spacecraft to carry all of its propellant during its mission. The VASIMR engine burns small amounts of argon gas, one of the most stable elements on the periodic table. But one of the most revolutionary features of the VASIMR design is its reliance on electricity, a renewable resource in space.

"It's very robust, but in order to get beyond the moon, and move on to Mars and beyond, we really need completely new transportation technology," Chang-Diaz said. "We view the VASIMR as the workhorse for that transportation infrastructure."

Electrically-powered plasma rockets could cut travel times for missions across the solar system. One concept championed by Chang-Diaz involves a 39-day mission to Mars, but it assumes leaps in nuclear energy production in space.

Originally bankrolled by NASA, the VASIMR project has gone from the drawing board to reality since the plasma rocket research was privatized in 2005. Inside Ad Astra's laboratories in Houston and Costa Rica, rocket designers have pushed the VASIMR engine closer to flight.

"In five years, we've made some pretty big jumps, in terms of power capability and the efficiency of the plasma source," said Tim Glover, Ad Astra's director of development.

NASA measures emerging technologies on a readiness scale from 1 to 10.

"When the technology is ready to fly is when you get to a level 6," Chang-Diaz said. "Level 7 is the actual flight."

The VASIMR engine is already at level 6, according to Chang-Diaz, who has worked on plasma rocket technology since the 1970s.

"I always felt there was a way to use that high-temperature plasma to develop a rocket engine that could go a lot faster than the rockets that we have today," Chang-Diaz said.

But Chang-Diaz was sidetracked by a second career as an astronaut after his selection by NASA in 1980. The 60-year-old is one of only two space fliers to complete seven missions on the final frontier.

In between training for space shuttle missions, Chang-Diaz led plasma research first at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

But NASA decided to cancel advanced propulsion research to pay for the Constellation program to return humans to the moon, forcing the work into the private sector in 2005.

"Facing such dire possibilities on our project, I proposed to NASA that we privatize it," Chang-Diaz said. "Much to my amazement, they agreed that it would be a good idea. That's how Ad Astra Rocket Co. was born, out of a privatization agreement with NASA, where the laboratory that I used to lead was transformed into a private entity."

Chang-Diaz secured investments from the United States, Europe and his native Costa Rica summing several tens of millions of dollars, a figure he says is ten times more than NASA ever spent on the project. The company now employs about 40 workers in Houston and Costa Rica.

The influx of funding has propelled the VASIMR engine from a readiness level of 2 to 6 since the laboratory was privatized.

"That happened in five years, and we only got from 0 to 2 in 25 years," Chang-Diaz said. "It's been a very drastic progress in the last five years. That's what happens when you have money."

But the Obama administration's proposal to cancel the Constellation program and refocus NASA on nurturing new technologies for solar system exploration has put VASIMR in the limelight.

"President Obama has decided that NASA needs to go back to its roots and continue to fund projects of advanced technology," Chang-Diaz said. "We've almost come full circle, and we find ourselves at the point where NASA is interested again."


Quote:
And Chang-Diaz's cozy friendship with NASA chief Charles Bolden doesn't hurt either, Glover said.

Chang-Diaz flew with Bolden on two shuttle flights and remain close friends today.

"Charlie and I are very good friends," Chang-Diaz said. "I think he's got the right approach in bringing people together. He certainly has the right personality and the right level of technical knowledge."

Bolden has cited VASIMR as an example of the new technologies NASA should be pursuing.

"One thing that will help will be to let somebody like Dr. Franklin Chang-Diaz or somebody who's studying ion engines help us develop a game-changing interplanetary engine that will cut the time to go to Mars in half," Bolden said in a news conference earlier this year.

Ad Astra officials say they welcome NASA interest in the project, but they insist on continuing the engine's development in the private sector.

"I don't want to put NASA in the critical path because you never know what's going to happen with NASA," Chang-Diaz said. "I wouldn't consider it very reliable at this moment."

Ad Astra is currently testing a two-stage ground version of the VASIMR engine inside a vacuum chamber in Houston. The 200-kilowatt engine, called the VX-200, looks nothing like a conventional rocket engine. The powerplant lacks the combustion chamber found on contemporary boosters.

The company successfully tested the ground engine to its 200-kilowatt design standard in late 2009, but those power levels were only achieved in short bursts lasting just a fraction of a second.

Engineers plan more testing of the VX-200 to eventually accomplish longer firings.

Ground testing so far has relied on low-temperature superconducting coils, but more ambitious demonstrations in space will use more durable materials capable of withstanding much higher temperatures and longer burn durations.

"The high-temperature superconducting tape is an enabling technology to us," Glover said.

Plasma inside the VASIMR engine is constrained by the powerful coils of a superconducting magnet, a key technological breakthrough that binds the engine together by accelerating the super-heated plasma to produce propulsive force.

The engine's argon fuel first passes through the assembly's first stage, where the gas is ionized as electrons are stripped from argon atoms. The first stage, also called the helicon section, heats the gas to about 10,000 Kelvin, or 17,540 degrees Fahrenheit, said Jared Squire, Ad Astra's director of research.

"It's the same thing you do in a steam engine, where you first boil water to make steam," Squire said. "You're heating the gas, and that's where the plasma is formed."

The VASIMR engine's second stage applies more electromagnetic power to the plasma in a process called ion cyclotron heating. The plasma spills out of the engine nozzle at more than 110,000 mph. The exhaust can reach temperatures of up to 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit, according to Squire.

Officials plan to work out the kinks in the technology before launching flight engines to the International Space Station by 2014 for an orbital demo. Glover said the station tests will use two engines operating at 100 kilowatts.

The 10,000-pound engine package will be launched on one of the commercial cargo carriers being developed by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences.


Quote:
VASIMR's opportunity to fly on the space station came through a Space Act Agreement signed with NASA in 2008. The contract, which does not include an exchange of funds, stipulates Ad Astra and NASA must pass through five milestones before the test flight.

The parties already completed a payload integration agreement, and the next step will be the VASIMR engine's preliminary design review in 2011.

Ad Astra hopes the VASIMR engine could be used to reboost the space station after it completes its demonstration objectives.

"If the ISS is really extended well into the 2020s, then the international partners might agree they would like to do reboost using electric propulsion," Glover said. "You would likely have to wait until present agreements to do reboost with [Europe and Russia] are ending, then you could say Ad Astra has already demonstrated this system on the ISS. Why don't we consider how much money we could save by moving this back and using it for reboost?"

Glover said such a move would save the station program $200 million and 7 metric tons of propellant each year. That money and mass could be diverted for other scientific experiments aboard the complex.

But Ad Astra has set its sights even higher than Earth orbit. The company believes the VASIMR will make voyages to Mars and asteroids a reality.

It just so happens those places are the new destinations for NASA's human exploration plans, which would bypass the moon, for now.

"We have to get to Mars fast," Chang-Diaz said. "It can't take six, or seven, or eight months to get to Mars. That is just asking for trouble."

Even if chemical rockets get humans to Mars, the program will be unsustainable because of the lengthy journey and high cost, according to Chang-Diaz.

"These engines that we're developing are inherently high-power engines. These aren't little thrusters, these are very powerful engines, which can scale up to tens of megawatts," Chang-Diaz said.

Those megawatt-class engines will be required for any substantial presence in the solar system. The 200-kilowatt engine now under development is best suited for work in Earth orbit or in multi-engine clusters.

But is a 39-day manned trip to Mars really possible? Ad Astra says yes, with caveats. It would require major advancements in nuclear power and a departure point somewhere high above Earth.


Quote:
"The ship for a 39-day mission to Mars is not that much different than a 747 jumbo jet, in terms of power," Chang-Diaz said. "When they hear we want to use a 200-megawatt ship to go to Mars, people cringe and wring their hands, and say how are you going to get that much power?"

Current technology can't produce enough electricity in space to drive multiple megawatt-class high-power plasma engines for weeks at a time.

"That takes a really lightweight power supply, around 1 kilogram per kilowatt, which is probably ultimately doable," Glover said.

According to Glover, the most important measure for the efficiency of plasma engines is the weight-to-power ratio, or the number of kilograms needed to generate a kilowatt of electricity.

Flat panel solar arrays today have a ratio of about 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, for every kilowatt of power they produce. The best nuclear reactors designed for spaceflight have a specific mass of about 45 kilograms, or nearly 100 pounds.

The Pentagon and Boeing Co. are developing a next-generation solar array aimed at reaching a weight-to-power ratio of 7 kilograms per kilowatt, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Engineers predict nuclear power generators will reach an efficiency of a few kilograms per kilowatt within a couple of decades.

Even if 39-day trips to Mars are still a distant dream, Ad Astra officials are confident the journey time for smaller missions can be cut by more than half by the 2020s with imminent breakthroughs in solar array technology.

"While solar technology is very impressive and it can be used to do some technology demonstrations soon, it's not going to get us very far. Ultimately, you need to have nuclear power if you want to do big things out there."
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Old Tue, Jun-01-2010, 06:05:45 PM   #20
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Atoms are 99.99999999999% empty space. If you removed all the space between the atoms of the earth, it would shrink down to the size of a grapefruit, and you'd be left with a black hole.



Japan to build orbiting solar station to beam energy back to earth (semi-old but don't think it was posted):

http://www.physorg.com/news172224356.html

Quote:
(PhysOrg.com) -- The Japanese are preparing to develop a two trillion yen (approximately $21 billion USD) space solar project that will beam electricity from space in the form of microwaves or lasers to around 300,000 homes in Japan within three decades.

The project, to be undertaken by a research group from 16 companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, aims to spend the next four years developing the technology needed to beam the electricity produced to earth. They expect that as fossil fuels run out, an orbiting solar power plant in space may be needed to provide a significant source of electricity in the future, according to the Kensuke Kanekiyo, from the Japanese Government's Institute of Energy Economics.

The planned solar station will produce 1 Gigawatt of electricity from its four km2 (approximately 2.5 square miles) array of solar panels, which is enough to power just under 300,000 Tokyo homes, at present usage levels. Since the array will be in orbit some 36,000 km (22,500 miles) above the earth's surface, it will be unaffected by weather conditions and will be able to generate power constantly.

The U.S. agency NASA has been investigating the possibilities of a space-based solar system for several decades and has spent around $80 million on the research. They and other government agencies estimate the cost of electricity supplied from an orbiting solar array could be around $1 billion per megawatt, which is too expensive to be commercially viable.

The Japanese realize the cost of building the solar station in orbit would be prohibitive at the moment, and the array could not be commercially viable at today's prices. The Japanese consortium therefore has to find ways of drastically reducing the costs. With the launch of a single rocket costing around 10 billion yen, the cost of the space solar station could be as high as two trillion yen, according to Koji Umehara, the Director of the Japanese Space Development and Utilization ministry, making the electricity supplied exorbitantly expensive.

The first step in bringing the plans to fruition will be the launch in around 2015 of a satellite fitted with solar panels that will beam electricity to earth.

JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency plans to have the orbiting space solar system operational some time in the 2030s
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