Server Sky - Data Centers in Orbit

Keith Lofstrom (SiidTech)
Average rating: ***..
(3.67, 3 ratings)

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 shutters for steering. 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. However, there are other surprising ecological effects to study!

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

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 1981. This speculative space launch system can be built with existing technologies and launch thousands of tons into orbit per day at costs below $5/kg.

Keith abhors powerpoint and everything like it. He wrote his own open source web presentation tool, wydiwys

No desiccant paks were harmed in the production of this bio.

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Rackspace Hosting
  • (mt) Media Temple, Inc.
  • ActiveState
  • CommonPlaces
  • DB Relay
  • FireHost
  • GoDaddy
  • HP
  • HTSQL by Prometheus Research
  • Impetus Technologies Inc.
  • Infobright, Inc
  • JasperSoft
  • Kaltura
  • Marvell
  • Mashery
  • NorthScale, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • OpSource
  • Oracle
  • Parallels
  • PayPal
  • Percona
  • Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc.
  • Rhomobile
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • SourceGear
  • Symbian
  • VoltDB
  • WSO2
  • Linux Pro Magazine

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