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Laser power?

Random ChaosRandom Chaos Actually Carefully-selected Order in disguise
Interesting report on Reuters:

[URL]http://www.reuters.com/video/2012/12/13/reuters-tv-laser-beams-the-future-of-power-rough-cu?videoId=239868892&videoChannel=117849[/URL]

During the report, they mention using laser beams to power helicopters and airplanes, but I am thinking a bit higher altitude: space launch vehicles. The biggest challenge to launching a craft into space is lifting the fuel that is being burned during the lift process. Using laser beams to remotely power a non-chemical propellant process for much of the atmospheric stages of lift could result in a significant savings of energy, and reduction in cost of the overall lift process. This would also remove the need for high energy production or storage onboard the craft and instead directing said energy directly from the laser, thus removing the size and mass of production and/or storage of electrical energy.

In many ways, this is similar to the method employed for Space Ship One, where a aircraft based launch vehicle is used to get the craft to the limits of atmospheric propulsion before dropping the rocket based payload. With the laser idea, the aircraft could become part of a single vehicle, removing the need for a dual vehicle while at the same time providing the same benifit.

Finally, orbital power! Giant orbital solar power stations lasering power down to the surface.

I'm sure our brain trust here can come up with even more ideas :)

Comments

  • BigglesBiggles <font color=#AAFFAA>The Man Without a Face</font>
    The climbers in NASA's space elevator challenges rely on beamed laser power, and one of the challanges is specifically about who can get the most efficient power transfer.

    Another option I saw many years ago uses a laser pulse to create a pocket of extremely hot air under a shield, with the space ship on the top of the shield. The air expands, pushing the spacecraft up, then another pulse is fired. They had a working small-scale version.

    There's also this (according to this page, the one I saw is called a "Lightcraft"):

    [url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beam-powered_propulsion[/url]
  • Random ChaosRandom Chaos Actually Carefully-selected Order in disguise
    It will be interesting to see where the next few years take us. We have Bigelow Aerospace building orbital space hotels, with the first [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigelow_Commercial_Space_Station]Orbital Commercial Space Station[/url] expected to go operational in 2015, and a second going operational a year later. We have an asteroid mining venture by [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_Resources]Planetary Resources[/url] being backed by Google execs Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, along with James Cameron and a number of others, with plans to start their first mission within a decade.

    This is going to get very interesting, very fast.
  • BigglesBiggles <font color=#AAFFAA>The Man Without a Face</font>
    I think that space exploration is returning to where science and exploration was a century ago, after a brief attempt at nationalising it.
  • StingrayStingray Elite Ranger
    The Bigelow project looks intriguing but that doesn't look like a Hilton Hotel to me. ;) Those modules seem to be little more than better albeit pressurized base camp tents... or you know those hi-tech mobile and inflatable military hospitals. I hope they are bullet-proof. Seriously though, it's good to see some progress.
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