Once again, 3D printing and robotics are to be called on as futuristic space plans are developed, this time by the Chinese as they look toward creating a solar power station to orbit the earth at 36,000 kilometers. In an effort to continue seeking alternatives for renewable energy, the Chinese government is studying ways to harness energy from the sun without other obstacles such as blockage from the atmosphere, or lack of sunlight due to seasons and darkness at night.
And while many projections for going to space are mere concepts, China’s Science and Technology Daily reported that construction has already begun on a space power plant in Chongqing, although it is still in the experimental stages; furthermore, Pang Zhihao, a researcher from the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation, states that the new space station offers enormous potential with the possibility of offering ‘an inexhaustible source of clean energy for humans.”
Chinese scientists will begin with a small- to medium-sized solar power station for creating electricity, sending it into space sometime between 2021-2025. After that, they plan to construct a megawatt space solar power station.
And as excitement builds, Li Ming, the vice president of the China Academy of Space Technology says he sees China as ‘the first country to build a space solar power station with practical value.’
Zhihao says that electric cars can be charged with such solar energy, and it could be provided nearly all the time—surpassing current, progressive solar energy farms on Earth by six times as the sun’s rays are transformed into electricity or microwave or laser beams.
Zhihao also envisions challenges for the renewable energy project but expects they will be overcome—including transporting a 1000-ton space station (in comparison to the 450-ton ISS) to space; however, with the assistance of futuristic, laboring robots and 3D printers pumping out construction materials, it may be possible to build the solar energy station in space—a topic which has been explored multiple times in terms of considering construction for habitats on the moon or Mars, with regolith or ‘space dirt’ usually playing a future role.
As other countries begin to follow suit regarding such energy exchanges, the positive impact on the environment could be exactly what is needed, along with propelling China further in their quests for deep space exploration. 3D printing, already in the works for this space station, it would seem, could continue to play a major role in space due to the options it provides in self sustainability.
With a 3D printer in tow and the materials and tools for making parts, astronauts and space travelers can look forward to an entirely new experience—and eventually, residents of the moon or Mars will be part of colonization fabricated by machines using strong but lightweight alternative materials that can be carried into space, or perhaps found there.
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