Air Force eyes small modular nuclear reactors, beamed power for spacecraft

By Leonard David, 

An artist's concept of what JAXA's Space Solar Power System might look like if it used laser transmission to beam solar power to Earth. The U.S. Air Force has laid out a new vision for its energy science and technology needs over the next 15 years – a forecast that includes plans for space-based power stations and the prospective use of small nuclear reactors for new spacecraft.

The report, titled "Energy Horizons: United States Air Force Energy S&T Vision 2011-2026," focuses on core Air Force missions in space, air, cyberspace and infrastructure. A series of Air Force mission-focused workshops and summits were held to shape the new strategy.

The report was released Feb. 9 and details how the Air Force plans to increase energy supply, reduce demand and change military culture to meet mission requirements.

"Energy is a center of gravity in war and an assured energy advantage can enable victory," said Mark Maybury, chief scientist for the United States Air Force. He spearheaded the report.

"While energy is already an essential enabler," Maybury said. "Global competition, environmental objectives and economic imperatives will only increase its importance."

Space is the "ultimate high ground," providing access to every part of the globe, including denied areas, the report explains. "Space also has the unique characteristic that once space assets reach space, they require comparatively small amounts of energy to perform their mission, much of which is renewable," it states.

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From Air Force Eyes Nuclear Reactors, Beamed Power for Spacecraft 

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