There has been earth based progress towards using solar powered lasers for Magnesium production. Having a profitable industrial application to fund and drive and scale the development of solar powered lasers is good news for accelerating solar powered lasers for space applications. There was a 2012 research paper that also looked at solar powered lasers.
They are scaling to 1 megawatt of solar collection and 30 watts of laser per square meter of collection area. A space based system could have 60 watts of lasers since there is no atmosphere blocking sunlight. Space based being application would then need another fresnel lens to focus the lasers for long range beaming.
Other References on Power Beaming
There was updated presentation on near term solar sails at NASA FISO (Future in Space Operations) by Bruce Campbell. Nextbigfuture also reviews the Spiderfab robotic assembly in orbit capability which could enable 1 kilometer diameter solar sails for dramatically superior space capabilities. A rudimentary interstellar solar sail is possible with a 400 meter diameter. So a 1 kilometer solar sail would have 6.28 times the area of the 400 meter sail.
The FISO Presentation did not consider the NASA NIAC – Innovative Advanced Concepts Spiderfab in orbit assembly
Spiderfab will use robots to assemble structures in space.
Spiderfab on orbit assembly can reduce the mass of space structures by 30 times.
This will enable solar power arrays with over 120 watts per kilogram. This is needed for fast solar electric interplanetary missions.
Spiderfab can also enable solar sails that are over 1000 meters in diameter.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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