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Way-out technologies win NASA’s support

NASA’s latest crop of space technology grants will fund work on projects ranging from power-beaming lasers for lunar missions to high-temperature testing of components for nuclear-powered rockets.

Those are just a couple of the 365 concepts attracting a total of $45 million in grants from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, also known as SBIR and STTR.

Jim Reuter, associate administrator for the space agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said the release of the SBIR/STTR Phase I solicitation was accelerated by two months to help small-scale tech ventures cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

“At NASA, we recognize that small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. … We hope the expedited funding helps provide a near-term boost for future success,” Reuter said today in a news release.

This year’s batch of SBIR/STTR Phase I grants will go to 289 small businesses and 47 research institutions across the country. More than 30% of the awards are going to first-time NASA SBIR/STTR recipients.

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PowerLight hits its targets with laser power beaming

Wireless power transmission has been the stuff of science fiction for more than a century, but now PowerLight Technologies is turning it into science fact … with frickin’ laser beams.

“Laser power is closer than you think,” PowerLight CEO Richard Gustafson told me this week.

This is much more than a lab experiment: Gustafson said his company, which is headquartered in Kent, Wash., is wrapping up a $9.5 million demonstration project for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.

In 2019, PowerLight showed that its power-beaming system can transmit 400 watts of power — enough to fire up an array of lights, laptops and a coffeemaker. In 2020, it followed up with a demonstration of a lightweight power receiver suitable for drones. The project proved to the Navy’s satisfaction that PowerLight’s laser system could be operated safely without endangering people who get in the beam’s way.

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PowerLight shifts focus to beaming power over fiber

PowerLight undersea power transmission
PowerLight Technologies’ “Power Over Fiber” system has been tested for military underwater applications. (PowerLight Graphic)

The company formerly known as LaserMotive is coming out of stealth mode with a new name — PowerLight Technologies — and a sharper focus on beaming power over fiber-optic cables.

“The company has gone through a major transformation,” Richard Gustafson, PowerLight’s president and CEO, told GeekWire today.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

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LaserMotive stealthily raises $1.5 million

LaserMotive executives
LaserMotive’s David Bashford and Tom Nugent monitor an experiment. (LaserMotive via YouTube)

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering, according to documents filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Investments totaling $1,515,733 have been registered over the past year, according to the filing. The investors’ identities have not yet been made public, and LaserMotive did not immediately respond to GeekWire’s inquiries today.

The company’s co-founder, president and CEO, Tom Nugent, told GeekWire in a January email exchange that LaserMotive has “continued to be in stealth mode over the last couple of years, and we’re not ready to go into too many details yet on where we are.”

LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

Get the full story on GeekWire.