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Power Space Hardware

Power Beaming For UAVs and Space Elevators 137

Posted by kdawson
from the beam-me-up-jim dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The idea of power beaming — using lasers or microwaves to transmit usable energy over great distances — has been around for decades. But recent advances in cheaper, more energy-efficient diode lasers have made power beaming commercially viable. LaserMotive, based in Kent, WA, is best known for winning the Level 1 prize of the NASA Power Beaming Challenge at the Space Elevator Games last November. In a new interview with Xconomy, LaserMotive co-founder Tom Nugent, who previously worked on the 'photonic fence' mosquito-zapping project at Intellectual Ventures, talks about gearing up for Level 2 of the NASA competition, slated for later this year. What's more, LaserMotive is trying to build a real business around beaming power to unmanned aerial vehicles, remote sensors and military bases, and other locations where it's impractical to run a wire, change batteries, or truck in fuel. The ultimate goal is to beam large amounts of solar power to Earth."
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Power Beaming For UAVs and Space Elevators

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  • Re:Sounds cool (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tangentc (1637287) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:23AM (#31841886)

    I don't think they're really being that marginalized. The Constellation program (which I assuming is the source of most of the marginalization talk) wasn't making effective use of money and wasn't delivering much. But with no plans to replace it (at least that I've heard of) manned space travel definitely seems to be being put on the back burner.

    Beyond that though, holding competitions like this is a great use of their budget. The rewards they give are relatively small compared to what it would take to develop the technology in house, and it gets companies that are flirting with the idea of developing space-related tech to produce when they might otherwise not, because the monetary reward lowers the financial risk of developing it.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @12:24AM (#31841890) Homepage

    When I read the article, I mused that the damage done by a mere misfired power beam might be nothing compared to the damage that the space elevator the beam powers might do if it falls. One of the most interesting scenes for me in Kim Stanley Robinson's novel Red Mars [amazon.com] was the vision of the descent of a Mars space elevator after it is severed from the asteroid it is tethered to: a white hot ribbon of carbon lacerating the entire circumference of the planet, even wrapping around twice for added damage if it is long enough.

    It's a bit sobering to think that even if mankind solved the plague of nuclear weapons, there's new ways to rain down mass destruction from orbit.

  • by ubergeek09 (1412177) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:12AM (#31842066)
    Most of the elevator would actually stay in orbit and only a small portion of it would actually fall down to earth. Maybe none of it because the part that won't remain in orbit may actually be strong enough to hold itself up under compression.
  • by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:06AM (#31842268) Journal
    > A space elevator would only have the angular velocity of the earth, so locally it would have no angular velocity.
    > Unless it was sent whipping around the earth by some external force, it would simply fall down.

    No it wouldn't just fall down.

    When a figure skater pulls his/her arms in, the figure skater spins faster. Why?

    Because everything wants to keep moving at the same speed, and the stuff further from the center is moving faster than the stuff nearer.

    So when the bits of the elevator are pulled in, they will want to continue moving too, and not just fall down.

    The closer those bits are to the ground, the smaller the speed differences are, and the thicker the atmosphere is, etc, so what happens depends on where the breaks are.
  • by Rakishi (759894) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:48AM (#31842424)

    Earth has an atmosphere much ticker than Mars. A space elevator falling would create a marvelous strip of fire across the sky but not much would be left of it to hit the ground.

    Also, a space elevator would probably have the density and thickness of cardboard. A lot stronger to tear apart mind you but the parts not high enough to burn up would not fall straight down like a rock. So they'd gently float down onto the uninhabited ocean that surrounds the space elevator. Same for any other pieces that survive reentry.

    So in the end it'd do no real damage from actually falling down. Some of the crawlers attached to it might leave unpleasant carters but probably not much damage either.

  • Re:Sounds cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:40AM (#31842808)

    From:
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/428439main_Space_technology.pdf [nasa.gov]

    "The return on investment with prizes is exceptionally high as NASA expends no funds unless the
    accomplishment is demonstrated."

    Am I the only one thinking that perhaps they should structure more government contracts like this?
    With a focus on "expends no funds unless the accomplishment is demonstrated".

    Which I would have thought should be a requirement for all government contracts but sadly is not.

    It increases the risk to the companies involved but that just means you need to make the winnings pot a decent size.

    Stop fucking around with these tiny little prizes of 1 or 2 million dollars and offer pots that would make a venture capitalist salivate( like 500 million dollars for the bellow)

    "put at least one human being on the moon and bring him back to earth safely and collect *list of samples* and place *list of scientific equipment* on the lunar surface"

    For comparison:
    the space shuttle: 115 missions (as of 6 August 2006) - total cost $150 billion

    at the moment prize pots seem to always be trivial quantities of money compared to the rest of the budget.

  • Late ? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:42AM (#31843060) Homepage Journal
    Although I have at least an idea of the engineering difficulties, I still wonder why this technology is not in a more advanced state, as power beaming has the potential to solve so many problems ?

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