Texas Space Grant Consortium
Advanced Design Project
Solar Power From Space
The Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC), in an effort to promote cooperation and knowledge sharing among its academic institutions, is sponsoring an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional, undergraduate spacecraft design project called the TSGC Advanced Design Project (TADP). Nine universities from across the state of Texas are participating. Many of these institutions, with large underrepresented minority populations, have not previously had the resources necessary to participate in a space-related project. At the other end of the spectrum are institutions with strong space programs. These diverse elements are being brought together to perform research and design of space based systems.
Each year, approximately fifty undergraduate students from nine universities participate in the program. To distribute the workload and emphasize the need for cooperation, each university chooses one or more subsystems to design. The undergraduate students involved then form themselves into subsystem teams with a student leader and a faculty advisor. Coordination of the various teams is accomplished by a group of graduate students from The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. The program's yearly budget, $50 k, serves to stimulate over $450 k of inkind support form the students, faculty, and the local space industry.
During the 96-97 academic year the program has focused on researching possible solutions to the world's power requirements in the next century. The 1.3 billion people of the developed nations use approximately 5.7 kW/person of power to enable their high standards of living. On average, the other 4.3 billion people use less than 1 kW/person. These 4.3 billion other people are strongly motivated, primarily through the examples provided by the developed nations, to raise their standard of living. Meeting their needs will require a vast increase in the production of power from 11,100 GW in 1985 to over 25,000 GW in 2050. This two fold increase in power production is not possible due to one or more reasons: the primary energy sources are inadequate; the power systems will not be able to provide power continuously; the power systems will be too expensive; or long-lived contaminants become a dominant concern. A good world environment can be provided if our sources of power are clean, reasonably priced, and independent of the biosphere. The global power needs for several centuries can be met by providing solar power to Earth from satellites in orbit.
Undergraduates at nine different universities are researching and designing subsystems that will combine to create a system of solar power satellites that will supply power to the terrestrial power grid.
These subsystems include but are not limited to:
The Texas Space Grant Consortium Advanced Design Project is creating a template for future multi-institutional, interdisciplinary, undergraduate design projects in Texas. With established communication and organizational networks, the next missions will be designed more efficiently. Also, new participating universities can be added to the existing infrastructure with minimal disruption. Eventually, the Texas Space Grant Consortium would like to involve all of its member academic institutions (25 and expanding) in these design projects, and then progress to multi-state endeavors.