Monday, April 12, 2010

Space Access '10 Prize Notes: Jordin Kare on LaserMotive

Jordin started by showing a Spaceward Foundation video on the Space Elevator Games. He noted that LaserMotive was formed to commercialize power beaming. He gave a chart of the power beaming competition from 2005 to 2009 showing the height, speed, prize money, power source, minimum energy per mass, and minimum power per mass.

In 2007 when they started, they had a 10kw laser system. He showed a picture of that system. They didn't have time in 2007. He then showed the 2009 lasers and optics. They were going to use automated tracking for 2009, but decided not to. Instead, they went with a manual joystick method because they were going to have to go 10 times as high, and a cable rather than a ribbon was being used. They didn't expect the cable to shift as much as a ribbon.

He showed a fun picture of them cooking hot dogs with the laser. He then showed $80,000 of photovoltaics and Otis the climber.

At the games the teams had to improvise stands to allow the climbers to be pulled up. He showed evidence of the "aging NASA infrastructure" - the NASA trailer alongside the teams' trailers. The NASA generator went down and they needed help from the teams. Then they ran out of a common product used often for personal hygiene, and again needed assistance. (Have they heard of the famous government TP regulations from the novel Snow Crash?) Jordin showed the Kansas City Space Pirates and USST, their competitors on the field. KCSP used a weighted tire for their improvised workaround.

Jordin talked about potential customers: UAVs, lunar rovers, sensors, laser launch, etc.

He ended with a separate discussion of the HX Laser Launch (PDF). The idea is to have small vehicles, where the hard part stays on the ground. These lasers on the ground can be divided into arrays of small units. This lets yo develop a nice system cheaply. You can build many small "beam modules", not 1 big laser. You can use a lot of 41kw laser diode arrays. These are improving technology. They can be useful in the propulsion range from 10-100km. You can have a 2-phase launch system. One array gives thrust for lift above the atmosphere, and the other continues from there.