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Power Beaming Satellite: “One Lightbulb” Experiment

Space-based solar power has been mostly all-talk - now it’s time to energize the idea with some electrifying experiments! That’s the goal of the “One Lightbulb” project.

December,2009: The Eisenhower Center for Space and Defense Studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy will begin the process of building two small satellites. The bright idea here is demonstrate by doing - that is, power beam between low Earth orbit and the Earth to illuminate a single one-tenth of a watt LED lightbulb.

The project as now blueprinted involves the building of two satellite systems concurrently, one “heavy” and one “light.” This dual approach using different methods provides a measure of assurance that success can be attained given technical, legal, financial, or other challenges that might bog down one of the two satellite designs. Each satellite would weigh some 400 pounds or less, with the desired launch dates in 2010.

The “heavy” satellite mission represents a more complicated set of tasks and greater expense than its counterpart. It involves placing on orbit a satellite that will collect power and broadcast it to Earth via laser, broadcasting it to a special ground receiving station where a lightbulb would be illuminated.
The “light” satellite mission would receive laser energy from the ground, lighting up a lightbulb. Visual observation of the light on the satellite being illuminated during the laser broadcast will indicate success.

If given the chance, both satellites may fly, said M.V. “Coyote” Smith, leader of the effort and a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, now a PhD student at the University of Reading in the UK. He is also Associate Director for Space Solar Power Projects at the Eisenhower Center, U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

“We are trying to prevent resource wars by developing yet another source of safe, clean energy that can be shared widely across the planet,” said Smith .

To keep an eye on this energetic idea, along with more details on the project, go to:

credit: Leonard David (LiveScience)

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