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This Company Wants to Use Microwave Beams to Power a Spacecraft

'With this technology, we can uniquely bring to market reusable, single-stage-to-orbit space planes.' (Screenshot/YouTube)
'With this technology, we can uniquely bring to market reusable, single-stage-to-orbit space planes.' (Screenshot/YouTube)

There is no lack of companies joining the private space race, with all of them developing new ways to launch spacecraft into space. Now, there is a new contender called Escape Dynamics (EDI). It’s a start-up out of Colorado, but their plan is new and unique.

They plan to use microwave beams to power their craft into space.

Our team is developing the first single-stage-to-orbit space plane designed for full and rapid reusability. The key technology transition enabling this breakthrough is external propulsion. The energy required for launch is delivered from a ground-based phased array of microwave antennas designed to safely and efficiently beam flight-sustaining power to the space plane during the ascent and acceleration to orbital velocity, EDI said.

Escape Dynamics Space Launch:

EDI says that the key benefits of external propulsion are:

  • Space launch vehicles become fully and rapidly reusable.
  • Cost per launch can eventually be reduced to $150 per kg.
  • The need for combustion is eliminated, leading to safer and simpler launch vehicles.
  • Useful payload fraction goes up from 1.5-3% to 8-12%, and the structural mass is increased by 1.5-2x.
  • Small satellites can be launched as primary payloads allowing a higher degree of flexibility for customers.
  • Space launch is effectively powered with electricity from the grid through a battery-storage system pioneered by the company, and in the long term can rely on renewable sources of energy.

With a press release on July 17 saying that they had “successful tests of their thruster powered by beamed high power microwave energy, with performance greatly surpassing the limit of chemical combustion rockets,” it seems that they are serious about using this technology. Unlike the usual rockets, their engines are using high-power microwaves to power the electromagnetic motors.

NewSpace 2015—Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux Keynote:

“Our recent tests are a major step forward in the continued advancement of our externally-powered high Isp thruster, and validation of our efforts to change the manner of orbital launches,” commented Richard F. Schaden, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Escape Dynamics.

Dr. Dmitriy Tseliakhovich, CEO/CTO indicated: “We, for the first time, conclusively demonstrated that a new propulsion technology that goes beyond chemical rockets and that can be used for orbital launch works on a lab scale, and we are confident that we can take it to multi-megawatt scales, and eventually introduce it into single-stage-to-orbit space planes that will change the way we reach orbit.”

“With this technology, we can uniquely bring to market reusable, single-stage-to-orbit space planes, and aircraft-like operations to orbit, and significantly decrease the cost of access to space for payloads up to 200 kg,” said Laetitia Garriott, President.

“We, for the first time, conclusively demonstrated that a new propulsion technology that goes beyond chemical rockets and that can be used for orbital launch works on a lab scale Image: Escape Dynamics

“We, for the first time, conclusively demonstrated that a new propulsion technology that goes beyond chemical rockets and that can be used for orbital launch works on a lab scale. (Image: Escape Dynamics)

There is still a lot to work out before they start sending the craft into space. The next stage is to carry out tests in the desert, then they will move on to setting up a repeatable system to power drones. It won’t be until then before they try putting a craft into space using this technology. But the company believes that by 2025 their craft will be in operation.

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