The University of Surrey in the UK is developing lasers that can beam solar power from satellites that are in sunlight to small satellites orbiting which are being eclipsed; A power grid system for space.
The project is part of the £7.4 million national SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology) program. SPRINT provides unprecedented access to university space expertise and facilities and helps businesses through the commercial exploitation of space data and technologies.
The power beaming prototype work follows on from an initial feasibility study by Space Power and the University of Surrey on laser transmission funded through the SME Innovation Voucher scheme.
Now, the team will investigate and verify the efficiency benefits of laser-based power beaming, develop the new technology, and obtain data to enable them to design a prototype for small satellites in space.
The SPRINT project is an important development from our feasibility study with the University of Surrey that enables us to approach customers with confidence and demonstrate the improved efficiencies available by using auxiliary power systems. By focusing on light optics and power beaming, we are looking to increase small satellite operating efficiencies by a factor of between 2X-5X.
“We have seen the benefits of powering satellites by laser which enables smaller satellites, simpler systems and fewer resources – whilst performing more work to help us understand our planet better. For us, this is a neat solution with long term benefits, not least for lunar outposts and asteroid mining but back here on earth too.”