Server Sky: solar powered server and communications arrays in orbit

Special thanks to longtime Foresight member Monica Anderson for setting up this November 4 Bay Area talk by another longtime Foresight member, Keith Lofstrom:

Server-Sky: Solar powered server and communication arrays in Earth orbit.

The EPA predicts US data center power consumption in 2011 will be 

120 billion kilowatt hours, or 3% of total US power consumption,
doubling every 5 years thereafter. Our work as programmers and
technologists will continue this exponential growth. This will
have huge environmental, social, and economic consequences unless
we find alternative ways to power the digital economy.

Server sky is a proposal to build large dispersed arrays of 7 gram
paper-thin solar-powered computer satellites and launch them into
6400km earth orbit.

A server-sat is a 100 micron thick, 6 inch solar cell, with
processor memory, and radio chips around the edges. Server-sats
use light pressure for thrust and electrochromic light shutters
for steering. <!–more–> Thousands of server-sats position themselves in three
dimensional arrays, about 100 meters on a side. An array acts as
a large phased array antenna, permitting it to transmit thousands
of communication beams simultaneously to ground receivers and other
arrays in space.

A server-sat displaces 25 watts of ground-based electrical generation,
cooling, and power conversion. A server-sat does not need the racks,
cabling, power converters, land, buildings, and other infrastructure
needed to build a ground-based server farm. These savings alone may
pay for launch.

Server-sat arrays use unlimited space solar power, and operate outside
the biosphere. The environmental impact of power generation and heat
disposal is tiny. In time, new launch techniques, and solar cells made
from lunar rock, can further reduce the environmental and economic
costs of manufacturing and launch.

Earth can return to what it is good at – green and growing things
– while space can be filled with gray and computing things.

Who is Keith Lofstrom?

Keith is a 56 year old mixed-signal integrated circuit designer in
Beaverton, Oregon. Keith is CEO of SiidTech, which licenses silicon
identification technology to semiconductor manufacturers. Keith is
also an integrated circuit design consultant.

Keith is webmaster for Orcnet, the Oregon IEEE Consultant’s Network.
Keith is active in open source and the Portland Linux Unix Group.
Keith’s server hosts the dirvish disk-to-disk backup program, based
on rsync and written in Perl. Keith has a special interest in low
power, high efficiency computing.

Keith invented the Launch Loop, a space launch system, in 1982.
This speculative space launch system can be built with existing
technologies and launch thousands of tons into orbit per day at
costs below $1/pound.

Keith has written for Kluwer Press, various IEEE journals,
SysAdmin magazine, Liberty magazine, aerospace journals, and Analog.

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