Los Angeles, CA, February 4, 1999 – The Space Frontier Foundation, a space policy organization, hailed Russian plans for using an orbiting reflector to bounce sunlight to the Earth’s surface as a milestone on the way to the development of clean energy from space.
“This very basic experiment represents an important step in the development of space solar power as an alternative to the dirty forms of energy we use today,” said Foundation President Rick Tumlinson.
The Russian experiment “Znamya 2.5″ is a 25 meter (83 ft) circular mylar reflector. After leaving Mir an expended Progress cargo vehicle will be commanded to spin the mirror out to its full size where it will be used to illuminate pre-selected areas on Earth with reflected sunlight. The beam will illuminate an area about 5-7km (3-4 miles) in diameter to about ten times the light of the full moon, around that of a dim street lamp.
Said Tumlinson: “Some may have a knee jerk reaction to this as environmentally unsound, and we agree its impact should be studied carefully. However, to provide the same illumination with conventional energy would mean mining the land for coal or oil, processing and transporting it, building large power plants that spew out pollution, and running hundreds of miles of power cables over dangerous and ecologically fragile territory.”
Although seeing only limited uses for such reflected light sources, the Foundation looks beyond the simple bouncing of light to a day when space solar power plants convert sunlight to electricity and beam it down to the Earth using microwaves or other methods.
“The Znamya project is very simple, but they are showing how such a structure can be built, deployed and accurately aimed. The basic concepts they are demonstrating can lead to a whole new field of mining solar energy in space and bringing it down to Earth. We are not talking about a billboard here, this is an idea that can help our planet. We hope people will give the idea a chance, and begin to understand that the solutions to many of our environmental problems lie just overhead.”