In less than three years, astronauts will return to the moon for the first time since the Apollo era. As part of the Artemis program, the purpose is not just to find and collect specimens on a mission crewed to the moon’s surface.
At this time, there is also the goal of important infrastructural installations (such as lunar gateways and base camps) that will allow for “continuous exploration of the moon”.
The main requirement of this ambitious plan is the provision of power, which can be difficult in areas such as the South Pole-Itken Basin – a cretaceous region that is forever shaded.
To counter this, a researcher at the NASA Langley Research Center named Charles Taylor has proposed the idea of a novel called “Light Bender”. Using telescope optics, the system receives and distributes sunlight to the moon.
The light bender concept was one of 16 proposals selected for the first phase of the 2021 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, overseen by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
Like previous NIAC submissions, the proposals that have been selected present a wide range of innovative ideas that could help advance NASA’s space research goals.
In this case, the light bender proposal follows the needs of astronauts who will be part of the Artemis mission and the “long-term presence of the human lunar surface.”
The design for Taylor’s conception was inspired by Heliostat, a device that adjusts to compensate for the apparent motion of the sun in the sky so that it reflects sunlight towards the target.
In the case of light benders, casegreen telescope icons are used to capture, focus, and concentrate sunlight, while fresnel lenses are used to adjust light beams for distribution across multiple sources located at a distance of 1 km (0.62 miles) or more. This light is then obtained by a photovoltaic array of 2 to 4 meters (6.5 to 13 feet) in diameter which converts sunlight into electricity.
In addition to residences, Light Bender is capable of providing power to mobile assets such as cryo-cooling units and rovers.
This type of array can also play an important role in constructing important infrastructures by empowering in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) elements, such as vehicles storing local regulations for use in 3-D printer modules (which will use it. Build surface structures).
As Taylor describes in his NIAC first-phase introductory statement: “The concept is better than options such as highly inefficient laser power beaming, as it converts light into electricity only once, and traditional power distribution architectures that are based on mass intensive Value Light Bender’s proposal is a ઘટાડો 5x mass reduction over conventional technological solutions such as laser power beams or a predictable distribution network on high voltage power cables. “
But the biggest drawback of such a system is that it can distribute power systems to permanent shaded pits on the lunar surface, which is common in the lunar south polar region.
In the coming years, several space agencies, including NASA, ESA, Roscomos and the China National Space Agency (CNSA) – hope to establish long-term residences in the area due to the presence of water ice and other resources.
The power level that the system provides is also comparable to the Kilopower concept, the proposed nuclear fission power system designed to last longer on the moon and other bodies.
The system will reportedly provide 10 kilowatts of electric (KW) power – the equivalent of one thousand watts of electric capacity.
“In the initial design, the primary mirror receives approximately 48 kW of sunlight,” Taylor writes. “The end user’s electrical power depends on the distance from the primary storage point, but the analysis behind the envelopes indicates that at least 9kWe of continuous power will be available within 1 km.”
On top of all that, Taylor emphasizes that the amount of total power the system can generate is scalable.
Basically, it can only be increased by increasing the size of the primary storage element, the size of the receiver elements, the distance between the nodes, or the total number of sunlight collectors on the surface. As time increases and more infrastructure is added to a field, the system can be made smaller to adapt.
Like all proposals selected for the first phase of the NIAC program in 2021, Taylor’s vision is to receive a NASA grant of up to 125 125,000.
The first fellows of all phases are now in the initial nine-month feasibility study period, where designers will evaluate various aspects of their creations and troubleshoot visible problems that may affect the concepts once employed in the South Pole-Itken basin.
In particular, Taylor will focus on how to improve the optical lens based on different designs, materials and coatings, resulting in an acceptable level of light diffusion.
It will also assess how the lens can be formed so that it can be deployed autonomously once it reaches the lunar surface. Possible methods for autonomous deployment will be the subject of further study.
Following the design / feasibility study, the architectural options for the light bender will be evaluated in the context of the lunar base located near the moon’s south pole during the lunar continuous business operation.
The primary figure of suitability would be the minimization of the landing set. Compared with known power distribution technologies like cable and laser power beaming.
Upon completion of this feasibility study, Light Bender and Second Phase Fellows will be able to apply for Phase II Awards. Jane Gustatic, Director of Early Phase Innovation and Partnership at NASA’s Space Technological Mission G Mission Directorate (STMD), said:
“NIAC Fellows are known as big, dream technologies that may seem to border science fiction and research as opposed to other agency programs. We don’t expect them to bear fruit at all, but accept that small amounts of seeds – for initial research. Money can benefit NASA in the long run. “
This article was originally published by Universe Today. Read the original article.