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NASA Looking To Power Spacecraft With Lasers 91

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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  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @05:27AM (#37465654)

    Wow, that's great. It's just a shame that NASA can't get humans into space.

    Oh, wait . . . scratch that. It should read, "It's just a shame that Congress isn't capable of letting NASA get humans into space."

  • by tp1024 ( 2409684 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @05:45AM (#37465742)
    Ion engines have been around for decades now and NASA still celebrates their use as a demonstration of how "high tech" NASA is.

    Most satellites and space probes still use extremely inefficient fuels even for large, energy intensive maneuvers - like going from Geostationary Transition Orbit(GTO) to the geostationary orbit (GSO) - mandating that they consist mostly of fuel for those maneuvers and having their life-time limited to however long it takes to deplete the fuel.

    Spaceflight is one of the most conservative and unchanging industries out there. There are dozens of game changers that didn't change the game. And using extremely expensive ground installations that will provide only part-time power to a satellite - doing worse than what cheap solar panels can do much better anyway - is a particularly inauspicious candidate to actually do change anything at all.

    In short: NASA, do us all a favor and shut up!
  • by neyla ( 2455118 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @05:50AM (#37465768)

    Working (as in safe, efficient, reliable and cost-effective) beaming-technology is one piece of that puzzle, but not the most difficult one to overcome.

    solar in space can collect 2-3 times the energy for the same size and quality cells. (no clouds, 24 hour illumination, no atmosphere) minus the unavoidable transmission-losses, you may still come out ahead of earth-based solar.

    However, being twice as efficient helps not at all, when you are also a thousand times as expensive. Launch-cost, assembly-cost and maintenance cost, is the killer. We'd need a space-elevator or in-space-manufacturing to significantly change this.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday September 21, 2011 @07:02AM (#37466010)

    How? Did NASA have China build the rockets?

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