A group of researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Nagoya, Japan, is experimenting with ground-centered microwave pillars for controlling rockets with an aim to make the spacecraft lighter, as a significant portion of a rockets weight is taken by its fuel.
Technological advancements helped engineers.
A study published in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets says that during recent tests, the engineers managed to assign a tiny gliding four-rotor drone with a versatile microwave. This test was implemented for making sure that their idea was viable.
According to the engineers, they weren’t certain about the flexibility of their idea regarding the experiment, but these adjustments were made so that the microwave beams might not only enable the upgrading of an aircraft but also take a rocket into orbit someday.
These researchers weren’t the first ones who implemented versatile spacecraft with a microwave beam. However, this latest attempt by researchers in Japan had stronger beams and advanced tracking systems, which made this experiment succeed where the former ones failed.
According to the head author and Tsukuba engineer Kohei Shimamura, the team of engineers used a futuristic beam tracking system for ensuring that the drone received maximum power. Furthermore, for improving the transmission efficiency, they carefully rearranged the microwave phase utilizing an analog phase sifter, which was integrated with a GPS. The propulsion technique might appear a bit unusual, but it was enough to maintain a four-engine drone upwards.
However, the technology is still quite premature, and it’s unlikely that we’ll get to witness microwave-powered NASA rockets going to space anytime soon. Presently, a huge obstacle is the energy that’s lost during the procedure. According to the examiners, the comprehensive energy efficiency obtained in the experiments was relatively low, reaching just a rate of 0.43%.
Currently, it’s still low, but more feasible than the 0.1% achieved in former experiments. Further work to tackle the problem of energy efficiency continues.
Shimamura evaluated that this outcome shows that more improvement is expected to further develop the transmission effectiveness and success for aircraft, space apparatus, and rockets of the future.
Even though microwave-controlled rocket propulsion is still in the initial phases, one day it could potentially be a better way of dispatching rockets into space without the massive fuel demands currently being used by conventional spacecraft.