Launching payloads into space is expensive, but high costs aside it’s also a horribly inefficient process. Conventional rockets are almost pure fuel, leaving only a small percentage (usually in the low single digits) of a launch vehicle's total weight available for payload. So NASA's Glenn Research Center in Ohio is looking into a whole new system of payload propulsion that uses lasers or microwaves to launch vehicles into orbit.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.