Preparations for launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rigged to flight test a nascent flyback capability in its first stage drew close attention from solar power satellite (SPS) advocates meeting here, who know that low-cost reusable launch is one key to realizing their dream of providing abundant electric energy from space.

While they are taking different approaches to developing SPS, the small but international group of participants at the SPS 2014 conference here agreed that their goal continues to be an end to the increasingly dangerous struggle to meet the energy needs of a growing world population. They see space solar power as an alternative to the environmental fallout from extracting and burning fossil fuel, and the military cost of securing supplies in unstable regions.

Like California-based SpaceX, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is conducting research into reusable launch as a way to cut the cost of space launch drastically. Japan is the only nation that has made beaming solar power collected in space back to Earth a goal of its space policy, and JAXA engineers calculate reusable launch is one way to reduce the up-front investment needed to put gigawatt-class power stations in geostationary orbit.

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