Feeds

NASA: Beam me up some power, Scotty

Space boffins want to drive future craft by RAYGUN

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA boffins are looking into making a science-fiction staple - the idea of transmitting power to spacecraft using lasers or microwaves - into reality.

Sending enough energy to replace commonly-used present day space propulsion via laser beam would be quite a feat. One of the most powerful lasers in the world that's capable of keeping a beam going for any length of time - Boeing's Airborne Laser Test Bed - can put out only a few megawatts of juice, but (according to El Reg's back-of-a-pint-coaster calculations) it takes about 190 gigawatts to power the first stage of a Saturn V rocket and 4.1GW to make a single Delta IV core rocket go.

But NASA is undeterred and, after giving the project the snazzy name of Ride the Light, has dished out around $3 million to a number of companies to investigate using beamed power by lasers and microwave energy.

The agency said in its statement:

This 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 un-piloted 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.

Not content with riding the light, NASA has also handed over approximately $710,000 to US firm Amprius to help it develop a prototype battery that will work well in the extremely low temperatures of space. The company will look at manipulating both the silicon anodes and the electrolyte formulation to get the battery juicing up in the cold.

The financing for both products is being made through NASA's Game Changing Development Program, which looks for revolutionary technology for future missions. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.