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SSPS Technology Will Help Respond to Natural Disasters

Q. How would SSPS contribute to our daily life?

Laser beam-type SSPS
Laser beam-type SSPS

SSPS will provide a great boost to the world's energy supply because power can be generated as long as the sun is there. So, in that sense, our daily life will directly benefit from the technology because SSPS will satisfy the demand for electrical energy.
Also, I believe that this technology will be useful in disaster situations. At the SSPS microwave receiving site, we use a flat-plane antenna called a "rectenna" (rectifying antenna) to convert microwaves into electrical energy. So, for example, if a blackout occurs due to a natural disaster, a thin, portable rectenna can be unfolded and deployed to receive microwaves from space, which can be converted into electrical energy.
Finally, in order to construct a structure as large as the SSPS in space, it will be essential to have a new space transport system and sophisticated robots. I think the SSPS project will push forward R&D in the rocketry and robotics fields, which will inevitably contribute to the growth of both industries.

Q. Are there any safety concerns about electrical power transmission via microwave or laser beams?

We intend to make the intensity of the energy of the microwaves similar to that of sunlight. However, it is necessary to take strong measures to ensure the safety of living organisms on Earth in case they are exposed to microwave beams that are misaligned with the receiving site on the ground. For example, even with weak microwaves, the impact of prolonged exposure on the human body has not yet been fully understood. So I think it is essential to take operational measures to ensure the safety of the surroundings of the receiving site.
Similarly, there must be strict safety measures for the use of laser beams. For example, the SSPS station would transmit a laser beam aiming at a navigation signal light on the ground. If the power transmission facility shifts in space and the navigation signal is interrupted, transmission should be stopped immediately.

Putting SSPS into Practical Use

Q. Is there any international research collaboration on SSPS?

Microwave-type SSPS Microwave-type SSPS

We have not really discussed it yet because SSPS is still under basic study, and Japan is the only country that is proactively dedicating itself to the research, by carrying out demonstration tests, for instance. Having said that, though, in reality, the enormous costs will make it very difficult for Japan to make the project happen independently, so I think that we will eventually need to run the project at an international level. Q. Could you tell us what your goal is now.I believe that Japan's long-term, steady efforts in SSPS research have made us the leading country in the field. I would like to carry on technology demonstration, step by step, in order to put the technology into practice in the future.
Although, Japan depends on imported energy resources today, if we can establish SSPS technology, it may even become possible for us to become an energy exporter. We would like to continue to lead the world in SSPS technology development, so that Japan will be able to play a major role as a contributor to the world's energy supply.

Yasuyuki Fukumuro
Advanced Missions Research Group, Innovative Technology Research Center, JAXA
Mr. Fukumuro joined the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA, now part of JAXA) in 1981, and has since worked in project planning and management, public information, and financial accounting systems. He has been in charge of research planning for the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) since 2007.

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