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Power NASA Robotics Space Science Technology

$2 Million NASA Power Beaming Challenge Heating Up 98

Posted by timothy
from the when-moving-target-is-not-figurative dept.
carstene writes "Qualification rounds for the NASA Centennial Challenge Power beaming contest are underway at the Dryden Flight Research Center. The contest uses a scale model of a space elevator as a race track. Entrants must build a robot to climb a cable, suspended by helicopter, 1 km into the sky without any on board energy storage. The teams are using high power laser beams to transmit power from ground stations to photovoltaic arrays on the robots. If a team can accomplish this at 5 meters per second average speed then they could win up to 2 million dollars. One day this technology could be used to power rovers in shadowed areas of the moon or to recharge electric UAV's in-flight or even a space elevator in the far future. A blog of the event can be found here. Full disclosure: I'm a member of the LaserMotive team that you can follow on twitter, or or via blog."
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$2 Million NASA Power Beaming Challenge Heating Up

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  • Space elevator? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jurily (900488) <jurily.gmail@com> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:17PM (#28800405)

    Last I heard there were bigger problems with space elevators than the energy required to get up there.

    A circular geosynchronous orbit in the plane of the Earth's equator has a radius of approximately 42,164 km (from the center of the Earth). A satellite in such an orbit is at an altitude of approximately 35,786 km above mean sea level.

  • Re:Full Disclosure? (Score:3, Informative)

    by T Murphy (1054674) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:39PM (#28800659) Journal

    Isn't "full disclosure" really just meant to say "Hey, FYI I might be biased"? Not, "Hey, I might be biased, now let me promote myself!".

    He was just demonstrating his bias for full disclosure.

    To be serious though, he is providing relevent and interesting information. We wouldn't have much news if you can't tell anyone what you are doing for fear of seeming self-absorbed.

  • by carstene (267166) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:01PM (#28800883)

    The lasers are actually infrared and invisible. Ours is 808nm and is very slightly visible to some as a violet glow. For this use lasers are easier to work with then microwaves as they have a much smaller divergence so the transmitter can be much much smaller. For beaming microwaves over these distance you end up with a transmitter that does a fair imitation of a radio telescope.

  • Re:Space elevator? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Engine (86689) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:47PM (#28801375)
    Most of strength isn't needed for the payload but for the weight of the cable, so you gain very little by making a smaller payload elevator.
  • Re:Sterling Engine (Score:3, Informative)

    by carstene (267166) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:58PM (#28801481)

    While the efficiency of a heat engine is great, the power to weight ratio is awful. So much in fact that it is really hard to build one that can lift itself.

    A laser that is matched to the bad gap of a pv cell can be over 50% efficient. So it is not too bad on that front and a lot less weight then a heat engine.

    By the way, a Sterling Engine is an engine made of silver, a Stirling Engine is a heat engine.

  • Re:Helicopter Pilot (Score:5, Informative)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @07:03PM (#28801539)

    This is actually a pretty dangerous job for a helicopter pilot. If his engine fails (which does happen from time to time), he'll be unable to autorotate and will crash fatally. Just like fixed-wing airplanes, helicopters require forward motion to be able to recover from engine failures by gliding to the ground. For this reason, helicopter pilots generally try to avoid hovering unless they're just above the ground; takeoffs and landings are done with forward motion as much as possible.

  • by carstene (267166) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @08:07PM (#28802119)

    Turns out that divergence is set by the wavelength, larger the wavelength the bigger the minimal divergence. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffraction-limited_system . Our lasers wavelength is 808 nanometers. Compare that to say 1 centimeter for microwave and you can see that microwaves will always require a much bigger "lens/mirror" to focus them.

  • Re:I'd like to know (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 23, 2009 @11:06PM (#28803213)

    sure he could

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