July 16, 2008--LaserMotive (Seattle, WA), a company specializing in laser power beaming technology, says that it has successfully tested its first climber prototype for its entry in the 2008 Space Elevator Games.
Details of the testing were not released; however, the company said that the test exceeded the speed and distance requirements set by the Spaceward Foundation (Mountain View, CA) for the $2 million NASA-sponsored prize for this year's Power Beaming Challenge. According to the rules of the competition, the winning entry must power a vehicle up a ribbon a vertical distance of 1 km at a minimum speed of 5 m/s using only power beamed from a station on the ground.
The test was performed on a treadmill that allowed LaserMotive to simulate the vertical climb. Performing under battery power (the laser-power link will be tested in another tryout), the climber well-exceeded the requirements. (Note from LFW editor: this paragraph was subsequently added to clarify this article, which was originally written without the knowledge of how the vertical testing was performed. The original paragraph has been deleted.)
"We're pleased at the results of our test, and are working to further refine our technology," said Jordin Kare, chief engineer for the project. Kare, formerly with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and the recipient of a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts grant to study a near-term form of laser launch using arrays of relatively low powered lasers, is an expert on laser propulsion. He co-founded LaserMotive in 2006 with Tom Nugent, former director of research for the LiftPort Group--the Space Elevator Companies (Bremerton, WA).
Part of the NASA Centennial Challenges, the Space Elevator Games focus on technologies with the potential to expand the space program, including power beaming for wireless energy transfer of energy. This is the third year the competition has been held. To date, no team has met the requirements to win the prize in the Power Beaming Challenge.
"We believe our test bodes well for the company and places us as one of the top candidates to win this year's prize," said Nugent, project manager.
Laser power beaming is an emerging technology that enables the wireless transfer of energy using laser light. Potential commercial applications include powering unmanned aerial vehicles and beaming solar energy down from space. In the Space Elevator, laser power beaming would be used to power vehicles up and down a high-strength tether stretching 62,000 miles, sending cargo and humans into space.