New research for space based Neutral Particle Beam (NPB) system

The US Missile Defense Agency had a request for “Develop the enabling technologies required to field an operational exo-atmospheric Neutral Particle Beam (NPB) system”.

Neutral beam accelerator technology was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. A prototype neutral hydrogen beam weapon was launched aboard a suborbital sounding rocket from White Sands Missile Range in July 1989 as part of the Beam Experiments Aboard Rocket (BEAR) project. It reached a maximum altitude of 124 miles, and successfully operated in space for 4 minutes before returning to earth intact.

The MDA is seeking lightweight, compact, energy efficient, radiation hardened, components significantly more advanced than technologies demonstrated in the BEAM Experiment Aboard Rocket (BEAR) system flown in 1989 to enable development of NPB system(s) capable of operating in sub-orbital (pop-up) or orbital (space based) mode. A conceptual NPB system would generate, accelerate, focus, and direct a stream of highly energetic electrically-neutral atomic particles, traveling at near the speed of light, unperturbed by the earth’s magnetic field, at exo-atmospheric targets. Particle interactions with target matter can cause damage and generate measurable emissions allowing target characterization.

Desired NPB enabling technologies include:
• Lightweight, compact, and energy efficient particle accelerators
• Compact power sources
• Particle neutralizers that exhibit minimal scatter, have extended operational life, and have minimal impact on operating environment
• Anion sources, extractors, and injectors
• Beam transport, collimator, focusing, steering, sensing, and tracking components
• Sensors capable of detecting emissions from targeted objects

Proposed efforts may seek to develop any of the above components within the context of a proposed system concept, with emphasis on achieving low size, weight, and power.

PHASE I: Develop preliminary design for the component(s). Perform Modeling, Simulation and Analysis (MS&A) and/or limited bench level testing to demonstrate the concept and an understanding of the technology. The proof of concept demonstration may be subscale and used in conjunction with MS&A results to verify scaling laws and feasibility.

PHASE II: Complete a critical design and demonstrate the use of the technology in two or more prototype efforts. Evaluate the effectiveness of the technology or technique. Perform MS&A and characterization testing within the financial and schedule constraints of the program to show the level of performance achieved.

PHASE III: Demonstrate the product’s performance improvement as compared to the state of the art. Perform analysis to evaluate the ability of the technology to function within a hypothetical NPB system.


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