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Power NASA Robotics Space Science Technology

$2 Million NASA Power Beaming Challenge Heating Up 98

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

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:01PM (#28800879) Homepage

    It got done eventually. Meanwhile the finished sections were already usable. A space elevator cable that's 1 km too short is useless.

    You can still do the project in stages, just to a lesser degree. First you make a thin cable that is only useful for small payloads, which will include the next section of cable when its ready, and so on until you have your full-strength cable.

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

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:09PM (#28800987)

    I recall reading, a few years ago, about a craft intended to lift payloads into orbit which operated by firing lasers at its underside which would ignite a fuel. I guess it's basically this [wikipedia.org].

    I'm all for research into all kinds of technologies but to me this almost sounds like a glorified Radio Shack kit; shine a flashlight at a robot to get it to roll around. If it's got photovoltaic cells why even bother with the lasers? Just make the thing solar powered. I suppose this method ensures more power for the robot. To me the aforementioned makes more sense.

  • Re:Space elevator? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:52PM (#28801419) Homepage

    The point wasn't to reduce the tensile strength required; that material science problem still needs to be solved.

    The point was that once you have accomplished that and it's a matter of manufacturing and will, you can make use of smaller cables in stages while waiting for the full construction to finish, much like you could use portions of the interstate system before it was done. But instead of making roads that are full width, but not the full length needed, you're making ribbons that are full length but not full width.

    At least one substantial elevator proposal uses this approach.

  • by n6gn ( 851311 ) <n6gn@sonic.net> on Thursday July 23, 2009 @08:44PM (#28802415) Homepage
    I'll supply the power over a single conductive cable 1 km long if you'll supply the robot to climb it. We can share the prize. I'm ready to demonstrate. To see how I do it see http://www.corridor.biz/FullArticle.pdf [corridor.biz] n6gn
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 23, 2009 @08:50PM (#28802453)

    The scariest thing about this is being on the ground, next to the cable, hooking up a climber with a big Sikorsky S-58 above you. Ever see what happens when a cable under 800lbs of tension snaps? Think Amusement park nightmare.

  • Re:Helicopter Pilot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Joren ( 312641 ) on Friday July 24, 2009 @12:30AM (#28803599) Homepage

    "Hovering at 20 to 50 feet puts you in the "deadman's curve" - it's a combination or airspeed (0 knots) and altitude (20 to 50 feet) at which a safe autorotation is not possible. So if the engine quits, you're dead."


    ...but we are talking about hovering at 1 km...

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