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First In-Space Laser Power Beaming Experiment Surpasses 100 Days of Successful On-Orbit Operations

13 July 2023

From Mary E. Hamisevicz, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s (NRL) Space Wireless Energy Laser Link (SWELL) surpassed 100 days of successful on-orbit laser operations on June 29, 2023, coinciding with the NRL’s 100th birthday celebration. Launched on March 14, 2023, this experiment represents the first successful instance of laser power beaming in space. It resides on the International Space Station (ISS) as part of the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program (STP) H9 mission.

SWELL has been providing nearly continuously about 1.5 watts at the power beaming receiver’s output with an end-to-end efficiency around 11%, more than ten times the team’s efficiency goal. The power beaming link distance is 1.45 meters. To NRL’s knowledge, in addition to being the first laser power beaming demonstration in space, this also represents the highest power, longest distance, and most efficient power beaming demonstration in orbit of any type.

“Though small in scale, SWELL is a critical first step in the investigation of laser power beaming in space. We’re ecstatic with its ongoing success in orbit,” said Chris DePuma, SWELL Program Manager. “This is the first step towards addressing the challenges of implementing power beaming links for lunar exploration and other applications.”

SWELL is sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment (OUSD (A&S)) Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund (OECIF), with additional support from the Naval Center for Space Technology at NRL. Launch and spacecraft integration were supported by the Department of Defense Space Test Program.

Power beaming delivers energy via electromagnetic waves, avoiding the need for wires or the transport of batteries or fuel. This allows energy to be sent at the speed of light. SWELL expands on previous NRL-led power beaming efforts, such as SCOPE-O and PTROL that have demonstrated power beaming’s safety and feasibility on the ground, and a prior wireless power demonstration in orbit launched in 2019 and operated in 2020 called LEctenna. To NRL’s knowledge, the 2020 LEctenna demonstration was the first instance of wireless power transmission in orbit. All of these efforts were supported by OECIF.

“SWELL continues to operate nominally, showing so far that power beaming links can operate for sustained periods of time to support mission operations,” said Elias Wilcoski, SWELL Flight Operations Lead. “After running continuously for weeks on end, the telemetry remains rock solid.”

“It’s exciting to see not only our success, but that of teams across the country and around the world in advancing power beaming technology,” said Paul Jaffe, SWELL Principal Investigator. “It appears to be only a matter of time before power beaming is used to move energy to address critical challenges facing our world, and beyond.”

The experiment should continue to provide data for about a year to help identify challenges and insights for future power beaming systems.

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C. with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Key West, Florida; Monterey, California, and employs approximately 3,000 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.
For more information, contact NRL Corporate Communications at (202) 480-3746 or


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