Categories: Satellites

Finally, a Practical use for Space-Based Power Beaming. Sending Power to Satellites in Shade

Power beaming is one of those technologies that can completely change the world.  Almost unlimited power wherever it is needed, whenever it’s needed, is literally a technology straight out of science fiction.  Researchers have been working on the technology for decades at this point, but there has been little commercial headway so far, so what is holding this revolutionary technology up?  A “killer app” would certainly help move it along – and that is what a team from Space Power, a private company, and the University of Surrey think they have found in the form of powering other microsatellites.

All current CubeSats and other microsatellites have to have their own power system. Sometimes they are powered by solar panels, other times by batteries, and even more rarely by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs).  These solutions have limitations, including limited lifetimes (batteries) or limited size (RTGs, solar panels).  Any improvement in the way microsatellites can be powered would be welcomed by the burgeoning satellite industry.

Concept of a space-based power beaming satellite.
Credit – ESA

That improvement is the focus of a SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) grant that provided £7.4 million to a public-private partnership involving the University of Surrey’s Department of Physics and Space Power, a private company supported by the OI Space Incubator.  The grant comes on the heels of a feasibility study the two entities produced that proved the concept of using a laser to send power from one satellite to another.  

The current goal of the grant is to increase “small satellite operating efficiencies by a factor of between 2x-5x,” according to a press release from the University.  The team will build a practica prototype that could eventually fly as part of a launch and demonstrate the power beaming technology in situ.  If successful, private money should surely follow to support a commercial end goal.  And with the increasing need for commercial satellites will come increased commercial opportunities for novel ways to power them. With a goal of creating commercially available products by 2025, the team at Space Power and the University of Surrey have a lot of work ahead of them.

Learn More:
University of Surrey – Revolutionizing satellite power using laser beaming
Space Power
ExecutiveGov.com – Space Power, University of Surrey Develop Wireless Satellite Power Beaming Technology
UT – The Navy is Testing Beaming Solar Power in Space

Lead Image:
Concept image showing how a power satellite might power other microsatellites with solar panels.
Credit – Space Power

Andy Tomaswick

Recent Posts

The Brightest Gamma Ray Burst Ever Seen Came from a Collapsing Star

After a journey lasting about two billion years, photons from an extremely energetic gamma-ray burst…

11 hours ago

Formation-Flying Spacecraft Could Probe the Solar System for New Physics

It's an exciting time for the fields of astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. Thanks to cutting-edge…

12 hours ago

Watch a Satellite Reaction Wheel Melt in a Simulated Orbital Re-Entry

Most satellites share the same fate at the end of their lives. Their orbits decay,…

17 hours ago

NASA is Building an Electrodynamic Shield to Deal with all that Dust on the Moon and Mars

Exploration of the Moon or other dusty environments comes with challenges. The lunar surface is…

23 hours ago

Did An Ancient Icy Impactor Create the Martian Moons?

The Martian moons Phobos and Deimos are oddballs. While other Solar System moons are round,…

1 day ago

NASA’s Next Solar Sail is About to Go to Space

Everyone knows that solar energy is free and almost limitless here on Earth. The same…

2 days ago