Nextbigfuture – Y.K. Bae Corporation announced their proprietary Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) has successfully accelerated a 450 gram (~1 lb.) spacecraft simulator with pure laser light for the first time in history. The project was funded by a Phase II grant of NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), which funds the most promising ideas for the next generation NASA space missions.
Conducted in a Class 1,000 cleanroom, Y.K. Bae’s demonstration amplified photon power 400-times to achieve photon thrust up to 1.1 milliNewtons by bouncing photons several hundred times between two laser mirrors. The amplified thrust successfully propelled a gliding platform along a 2 meter frictionless air track, simulating zero-gravity.
“Moving a 450 gram platform unequivocally validates the useful power-to-thrust ratio of PLT,” said Dr. Claude Phipps, Chair of International High Power Laser Ablation and Directed Energy Symposium. “”I can see future development that includes optical cavities that span many kilometers achieved with precise mirror alignment to enable maneuvering spacecraft many kilometers apart, and propellant-free propulsion of satellites in formations.
Once certified, SpaceX, with its Falcon 9 launch vehicle, can compete for national security space launches against United Launch Alliance, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin team that currently has a monopoly on Air Force launches.
Nextbigfuture – The Spacex Dragon module simulated a major failure in its engines and performed an emergency bail-out procedure over NASA’s Cape Canaveral facility. The verdict? A success overall, but NASA will require a lot more work done before it risks one of its highly trained astronauts on a third-party vehicle.
The test lasted just under two minutes in total, assessing the capsule’s ability to get itself into a safe position for bail-out, and to there land softly enough to protect any human occupants. The capsule’s eight SuperDraco engines fired for just five seconds, producing for that period something like 120,000 pounds of thrust (or about 3% of the thrust of SpaceX’s enormous Falcon Heavy rocket). Aiming itself over the nearby Cape, the capsule lifted to about 5,000 feet. Here, it ditched the “trunk” section, and deployed parachutes, slowly descending nose-first toward the water.
Nextbigfuture – A NASA NIAC study by Philip Lubin, is developing a system that will allow us to take a significant step towards interstellar exploration using directed energy propulsion combined with wafer scale spacecraft. One of NASA’s goals and one of humanity’s grand challenges is to explore other planetary systems by remote sensing, sending probes, and eventually life to explore. This is a long standing and difficult to implement dream. The technological challenges are formidable. A step in this direction is to send small probes that will supplement the current long range remote sensing done by orbital telescopes.
Detailed directed energy progress and the asteroid defense work that can be adapted for interstellar exploration