National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
The most obvious participants that are active on researching Energy from Space systems are national space agencies. That is, for now. Ultimately, real success will come from, and depends on, power utility & energy companies, investors, entrepreneurs, governments, universities and research institutes. Also, public awareness and acceptance is essential for future success.
Who works on Energy from Space?
In terms of committment, Japanese institutes and government form the frontrunner group in the world on Energy from Space. JAXA has been seriously working on the program under the name Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) since the 1990s. JAXA is proactively pursuing SSPS along with a long term plan supported by the Japanese government.
The main reason for Japan to pursue Energy from Space is the desire to become less dependent on foreign energy sources. Since Japan imports more than 80% of its primary energy, energy security is top priority for the government. As a consequence, various alternatives including wind, solar and hydro energy parks are developed, along with more exclusive programs like Energy from Space and nuclear fusion (ITER).
The NASA has had a long history with Energy from Space. Already in 1968 the concept was introduced by Dr. Glaser after a series of experiments on microwave power transmission. Afterwards, NASA joined forces with the Department of Energy and Department of Defense for collaborative research. After a break in the 1980s (due to high estimated costs), it was picked up again in the 1990s.
In the mean time, various ground experiments were conducted and detailed reports and articles have been published. Institutes like the US Pentagon's National Security Space Office and National Space Society took the initiative to carry out research and increase public awareness of Energy from Space. Currently, NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program conducts research on innovative solutions for Energy from Space systems.
For the United States in general, Energy from Space is interesting because of their advanced knowledge of space technology, their heavy reliance on energy imports and the applications for powering remote places for defense purposes.
Also private companies have discovered the potential of Energy from Space systems. Companies like Mitsubishi Electric Corp., Boeing and EADS Astrium are involved in Energy from Space concepts. As a result, collaborative programs between companies have been formed, like the one between Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and IHI Corp.
Smaller companies with a more entrepreneurial approach include Space Energy, Powersat Corp. and Solaren Space. Entrepreneurs in this field can prove to be of particular importance, because of their flexibility and technological innovative character. However, as with larger companies, they will rely on the advanced expertise that is offered by space agencies. Also, long term power purchase contracts with power companies will have to be made. For example, a preliminary contract between Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Solaren.
Finally, institutes are involved in the developments as well, like the International Academy of Astronautics and the International Union of Radio Science. In the book 'The Next 100 Years' of George Friedman, founder of intelligence firm Stratfor, he predicts the massive deployment of Energy from Space systems coming century.
The ESA started their own program on Energy from Space in the 2003, after it conducted several studies in 1979 and 1999. Under the Advanced Concepts Team (ACT), ESA dedicates a small team of scientists and engineers that are looking into the possibilities and solutions for Energy from Space.
In addition, ESA established a European Network on Solar Power from Space, which provides a forum for all relevant and interested European players in the field of Energy from Space, including industry, academia, and institutions. ESA also regularly organizes meetings with other space agencies and institutes to strengthen collaboration and provide updates on developments.
ESA can play an important role in the development of Energy from Space together with other institutes, industries and space agencies. It has kept a steady interest and involvement since the start of the ACT program.
Private companies, entrepreneurs and institutes
European Space Agency