Pentagon launches experimental space laser — RT World News

The US Naval Research Laboratory launched a laser radiation device into space on Wednesday. Although the technology is still in its infancy, its proponents say it could one day power alien colonies or alleviate energy shortages on Earth.

The Space Wireless Energy Laser Link (SWELL) lifted off to the International Space Station on Wednesday aboard a SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft, according to statements from the US Navy and Space Force. The launch was carried out by SpaceX on behalf of NASA and the Department of Defense, with the Dragon vehicle carrying seven other experimental devices to the Pentagon space station.

In development since last year, the SWELL delivers energy harvested by space-based solar panels to Earth in the form of electromagnetic waves. As no mass is transported, the power delivered is almost instantaneous.

Similar devices are currently being designed by private companies, although the technology has yet to be tested in space.

“This is the next step in expanding this capability for space, lunar and planetary applications,” SWELL program manager Chris DePuma said in a statement. DePuma predicted that the technology could one day be a “critical enabler” of powered colonies on the moon and elsewhere.

“The energy beam could also be used to distribute power to and around Earth, including from satellites that collect solar power in space,” he added.

Power radiation is not without limits, however. Currently, a single laser beam device can transmit 1 to 10 milliwatts of power, according to a 2021 report by Forbes. The average onshore wind turbine, on the other hand, has a capacity of 2.5 to 3 mW.

Larger microwave beam systems could theoretically transmit over a gigawatt of power to terrestrial receivers. Although that would be enough to power a large city, the system would have to be mounted on a satellite 35,000 (21,747 miles) kilometers in space, making repairs virtually impossible.

However, without our planet’s atmosphere, weather and day and night cycles, it is estimated that solar panels in space could generate 40 times more energy than those on Earth.

The United States is not the only world power with an interest in technology. China is currently preparing to test its own beam device in the coming years and aims to have a space power plant operational by the 2030s.


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