Scientist brings laser engines into realm of possibility

Destiny Gundam light propulsionImagine a spacecraft that could travel faster than 100km/sec. Something like that might get us to Mars in about a week. Well, as happens so often, technology seen in Japanese anime is stepping out of the pages into real life. Dr. Young Bae of the Bae Institute demonstrated his engine back in 2006, and this week he presented his concepts at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space 2007 Conference.

All this may seem rather far-fetched and crazy, but Dr. Bae is publishing his discovery in the AIAA’s peer-reviewed journal (scheduled out later this year), so it must have some basis of truth behind it. I’d caution skepticism all around, and I’ll believe it when I see it. Too often, somebody forgets to carry the one or they realize that the technology causes babies to be born with an extra appendage. On the other hand, this could be really cool, and I’m sure it will have applications elsewhere, too. Oh yeah, did I mention this contraption was built with off-the-shelf parts?

(via DailyTech)
{image from sunrise anime

6 thoughts on “Scientist brings laser engines into realm of possibility”

  1. I have written several articles that provides details of how the photonic propulsion system operates. It is a modification of the classic idea of laser pushed solar sails. Geoffrey Landis who wrote many of the major papers on laser pushed solar sails has commented to me on the Bae institute work.

    His co-author on the very idea of photonic propulsion, Robert A. Metzger, is more optimistic that it can be made to work.

    They wrote about multi-bounce laser based sails back in 2001. It was presented at the American Institute of Physics conference in 2001.

    Geoffrey Landis concern is not if it will work. His concern is in exactly how well it will work. How well laser beam quality can be maintained.

    We do not need a super large laser. An array of the smaller lasers that we can build will do.

    We have the necessary reflective materials and in light weight form.

    The current demo system is small 10 watt because the first application was precise and efficient station keeping for satellites with low power. Being able to position a satellite to 1 nanometer of position allows for better telescope arrays.

    Efficiency for converting electrical power to laser energy is between 20-80%.

    Metzger also wrote some more on the multi-bounce system

  2. Thanks, Brian! Anyone reading Futurismic should probably be reading Brian’s blog too, because he really knows the detailed ins and outs of the technologies we talk about here.

  3. Thank you for the input, Mr. Wang. I can see how a lack of accuracy would create some problems, especially when talking about such vast distances.

    If you read this, I’m curious as to whether this propulsion would be placed on the spacecraft, or would it be ground-based where the spacecraft would have a kind of target for the laser to hit?

  4. We will not know how well we can maintain beam quality until we try to do it. (Other than computer simulations and calculations based on experiments, known physics where we can put calculated bounds on what to expect)

    Since laser light is bouncing around a hundred or hundred thousand times then each 0.01% to 1% tweaks will start making huge differences.

    BEA institute is already getting 3000 reflections, although that is in a lab setting.

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