New system for powering small satellites with energy using a laser

(ORDO NEWS) — The University of Surrey, UK, and Space Power are tackling the problem of powering small satellites in low Earth orbit when they are out of direct sunlight.

Collaborating on a space infrastructure project, the joint team will develop a new technology that uses lasers to beam solar energy from satellites in direct sunlight to smaller satellites that orbit closer to Earth during eclipses.

Prototypes of these “wireless laser chargers” for small satellites are planned for commercial use starting in 2025.

Wireless power transmission is a critical technology for space infrastructure and will provide additional capacity to improve the basic efficiency of small satellites in low Earth orbit.

The technical base of the project will include specialized laboratories for the study of lasers and optical systems of the Department of Physics and the Institute of Advanced Technologies of the University of Surrey, which are world leaders in the development and implementation of laser and photovoltaic technologies.

Unless new technologies like this one are used to power small satellites, more satellites will be required, which in turn will increase the cost of launches and increase the amount of debris in orbit.

As humanity selects an increasing number of ambitious and useful tasks for small satellites, this problem is getting worse.

This project is part of the £7.4 million national program SPRINT (SPace Research and Innovation Network for Technology). The team will study and test the effectiveness of laser power transmission systems, develop new technology and obtain the data needed to build a prototype device for “charging” energy into small satellites in space.

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