Server Sky - Energy in Space, Information on Earth
Tuesday May 5, 2015 600pm to 800pm, Multnomah County Library
801 SW 10th Avenue Portland, OR 97205
US Bank Room, north end of entrance lobby
Why isn't space activity growing? Every decade brings new disappointments followed by new claims. We were supposed to have L5 colonies in 1995, private spaceports, $100,000 suborbital trips. In 2013, the SpaceX Falcon Heavy was to launch "later this year".
Great ideas, but Space is HARD. Costs increase, launch rockets do not. The venerable 23-ton-to-LEO Russian Proton (1965) and the US Delta (1960) are the largest, with less than 20% of the capacity of the Saturn V. Communication satellites are the main application, evolutions of the 1962 Telstar design, handwired boxes of trailing-edge electronics resembling 1960s aircraft. We launch about 300 tons to orbit per year.
Meanwhile, the global semiconductor industry grew from the first planar integrated circuit in 1960 to 335 billion dollars in 2014, five times the size of the space industry. Output is soaring - we've made 1 sextillion transistors (1E21), an amount increasing 70% a year, 200 times larger per decade. There are more transistors in a cheap USB flash drive than existed worldwide during Apollo.
What if we bet our space future on new transistors, not new rockets? Server sky proposes to radically increase the value per kilogram of satellite launched to orbit. Coupled to fast growing global markets, this will rapidly expand launch rates, the only proven way to lower per-kilogram launch cost.
Server sky will deploy millions of 5 gram plate-sized "thinsats", aluminum foil satellites with 5 watts of solar cell on the front, and ultrathin silicon chips on the back, converting sunlight into computation and communication. 8000 thinsats deploy into stretched geodesic ellipsoids 100 meters across. Hundreds of arrays share a 6411 kilometer altitude equatorial orbit, and serve the developing world below. Thinsats are propelled and steered by light pressure, like a solar sail, and radiate heat into deep space. Arrays communicate to phased array antennas attached to cell towers below.
Since my last presentation to Oregon L5, we have built an international team, developed a business plan, and found new applications and opportunities, including the tracking, capture and reprocessing of most space debris. A 10 kilogram experimental deployment of thinsats, Hitchhiker, will test concepts and technologies, and earn the money to seek next-round investment. Our goal is to double deployment annually, provide gigabit internet to three billion underserved people, and transform their lives with education, employment, entrepreneurship, and investment opportunities.