Escape Dynamics, which focused on sending cargo to space on a wave of beamed propulsion, shut down five weeks ago. The following message is now on its website:
After years of research and several technology demonstrations which advanced the state-of-the-art in external propulsion, we concluded that, while microwave propulsion is feasible and is capable of efficiency and performance surpassing chemical rockets, the cost of completing the R&D all the way through operations makes the concept economically unattractive for our team at this time. We also concluded that at current stage technical risks and uncertainty about the cost and timeline are still very high and are not attractive to private investors. Therefore, we decided to discontinue the operation of Escape Dynamics and stopped the R&D effort at the end of 2015.
Through our work we demonstrated end-to-end operation of a prototype thruster where energy was coming from the electric grid, converted into microwave beam via a high power microwave source, and beamed to a thermal thruster which generated efficient thrust. This and other developments represent a step forward towards novel propulsion systems which in the future could enable reusable single-stage-to-orbit flight and reduce the cost of space access beyond what is possible with chemical rockets.
As we are winding down the effort we would like to express our deep gratitude to our visionary advisers, supporters and partners who inspired our team to pursue a moonshot solution to a remarkable challenge of space access. Although we are now discontinuing our external propulsion efforts we are excited about the future of the space industry and about the disruptive innovations that are bound to come.
LaserMotive PR — Seattle, Wash. (June 13, 2011) – LaserMotive, an independent R&D company specializing in laser power beaming and winner of the 2009 NASA Power Beaming Challenge, today announced it has been invited to demonstrate its wireless power systems for unmanned aerial vehicles at the NASA Day on the Hill, Wednesday June 15 in the Rayburn Foyer, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC. (more…)
An interesting — if sketchy — report from the website of futurist Ray Kurweil about a joint DARPA-NASA project on interstellar travel:
NASA Ames Director Simon â€œPeteâ€ Worden revealed Saturday that NASA Ames has â€œjust started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,â€ with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA.
NASA Jump-starts Space Technology Program Space News
Senior NASA officials are so eager to jump-start advanced technology efforts that they sought and won congressional approval to devote $36.5 million in 2010 funding to eight high-priority research projects.
Those projects, which include joint efforts with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to investigate horizontal launch capabilities, in-orbit satellite servicing and power-beam propulsion, are set to begin immediately, said Robert Braun, NASA chief technologist.
I just came from the Singularity University over at NASA Ames. Students presented their business proposals this afternoon for how to open up space over the next decade so that it positively affects a billion people. A total of 24 students — a third of the class — were involved in developing space projects. They will be forming companies to pursue their ideas.
There were five ventures presented:
Cheap Access to Space – Beamed propulsion for sending satellites into orbit
SWARM – An Iridium-on-steroids constellation of 300 multipurpose LEO satellites
Made in Space – In-space manufacturing that negates the need to ship things up from Earth
SpaceBio Labs – Cheap and reliable access for bio-tech research
AI Labs – Using artificial intelligence and virtual environments to explore and experience space.