As an alternative to current energy sources, NASA veteran John Mankins has proposed building a flower-shaped, solar energy collector in space.
The orbital solar plant, with tentative plans to launch by 2025, is made extremely efficient by the use of small modules that work together like a swarm of ants. Called the Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array (or SPS-ALPHA), it would be equipped with a many thin-film mirrors that would concentrate the sunlight onto a central photovoltaic element at the back of the array. That solar energy would then be sent back to earth as in the form of radio waves and collected by a massive microwave receiver dish.
Mankins hopes to prototype the SPS-ALPHA quickly, in three-year increments before the fourth generation is launched in 2025.
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