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NASA Looking To Power Spacecraft With Lasers 91

Posted by Soulskill
from the everything-is-better-with-lasers dept.
msmoriarty writes "NASA has decided to develop methods for using lasers and/or microwave energy to 'provide external power on demand for aerospace vehicles' as part of its 'Game-Changing' technology development program. According to the announcement, 'The project will attempt to develop a low-cost, modular power beaming capability and explore multiple technologies to function as receiving elements of the beamed power. This combination of technologies could be applied to space propulsion, performance and endurance of unpiloted aerial vehicles or ground-to-ground power beaming applications. Development of such capabilities fulfills NASA's strategic goal of developing high payoff technology and enabling missions otherwise unachievable with today's technology."
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NASA Looking To Power Spacecraft With Lasers

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  • Keep on with science (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @05:34AM (#37465690)

    If it does work, efficiently and at long range, we can finally get started on sending solar collectors up into space for space based solar power. [wikipedia.org] Which'll go a damned long way towards moving us along the way to a type I civilization [wikipedia.org].

    And, if we happen to get excess power, maybe we can funnel that off into building a mass driver so we can get back up to space cheaply and efficiently instead of this irritating rocket based technology.

    GET ON IT NASA! Work on REAL advances instead of listening to people harping on about sending people into space in order to do...what, exactly? Make people on the ground feel good about themselves? (If they advance their robots enough, a robot will be able to do experiments just as well as a human with proper human supervision)

  • by Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @05:48AM (#37465762)
    Stanisaw Lem, "Fiasco" [wikipedia.org]
  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @07:34AM (#37466142)

    NASA has had a Centennial Challenge [nasa.gov] open in power beaming for some years now. From [nasa.gov] :

    This challenge is a practical demonstration of wireless power transmission. Practical systems employing power beaming would have a wide range of applications from lunar rovers and space propulsion systems to airships above the Earth. Another future application of power beaming would be the space elevator concept.

    In 2009 [spaceelevatorgames.org] the competitors drove their laser-powered devices up a cable one kilometer high, suspended from a helicopter, and LaserMotive LLC was awarded $900,000.

    It turns out that it is really tough and actually somewhat dangerous to have a helicopter dangle a 1 km string perfectly vertical. This also "doesn't scale" (i.e., there is no way a helicopter is going to dangle a 5 km string for a longer test), and future competitions will be done horizontally, on the ground. (This also fits in with the idea of power beaming to rovers, say one exploring the always dark Shackleton Crater at the Lunar South pole, which is frankly a more realistic near-term prospect than a terrestrial space elevator.)

    I believe there is still $ 2 million (USD) to be awarded, so slashdotters should get to it and go out there and take the Governments money.

  • Re:Burning air? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @08:33AM (#37466574)

    Isn't Ozone good? I mean before the Carbon Global Warming Panic, there was the Hole on the Ozone layer Panic. Does Ozone suppose to block UV rays that causes skin cancer?

    Lay people using the word panic in an attempt to trivialize the problem and suggest that people are foolishly overreacting are highly counterproductive. The Ozone 'panic' actually led to some global changes, which is allowing the the Hole on (sic) the Ozone layer to slowly regenerate. Rather like the lead-in-gasoline panic a few decades ago which actually led to changes so we don't have to suffer from lead poisoning, or the acid rain panic, which led to less Sulfur being spewed out and as a result, less acid rain. Gosh. Perhaps the word panic should be replaced with 'appropriate response'...

  • Why bother for now? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @09:34AM (#37467398)

    It would be ridiculously expensive and dangerous, and it would tell us little that safer one-way robot missions cannot tell us for a fraction of the price.

    Don't get me wrong, I am as excited as anyone about space exploration and colonization; but the point is, for now the technology just isn't mature enough.

    Now, one could argue that sending people in space would be a good way to test our current technology and improve it; but the point is, most of the research and the testing that we _could_ do in space can be done just as well by unmanned missions, or by earth-based experiments.

You can do this in a number of ways. IBM chose to do all of them. Why do you find that funny? -- D. Taylor, Computer Science 350

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