Breakthrough Starshot Photon Engines – Millions of Densely Packed Lasers

The status of the Breakthrough Starshot project (laser pushed sail for an interstellar mission).

They have broken it down into three major challenges. The photon engine, the sail and communications.

They have twelve academic teams working on the photon engine design and components. They have determined several designs that will not work for the photon engine and currently believe that they can make it from hundreds of millions of densely packed 10 centimeter wide mirror-lasers.

It could be built now for the 100 gigawatt system but it would cost trillions. The design work is to drive the cost down to $10 billion or less.

They are looking at many demonstrations on the ground and then with cubesats and then a significant complete system within ten years.

SOURCES- Breakthrough Starshot
Written By Brian Wang,

11 thoughts on “Breakthrough Starshot Photon Engines – Millions of Densely Packed Lasers”

  1. That's not how press releases work. You lead with the stuff that makes people excited.
    Actual real project planning is different. THERE you look at your minimum viable product etc. But this is still the press release, power point stage.

  2. I may be remembering my optics wrong, but wouldn't 10cm apertures kinda put a crimp in long range beaming to such a small target?

    Dr. Kare's laser thermal heat exchanger launch designs were looking at mirrors in the 150-200cm range, at 4-5m targets in the 500km range.

  3. Plenty of power to be used in space without loses and distortion by the atmosphere. A laser on earth could knock out any line of sight satellite and with mirrors go after anything else.

  4. A big laser can have multiple uses. It could power rockets to NEO. It could also power rockets to the planets.

  5. Two justifications:

    1: Power plants already available on Earth.
    2: A laser firing from Earth can't target cities on Earth.

    That last is big, since we're talking about a laser powerful enough to qualify as a weapon of mass destruction.

  6. Because an interstellar mission attracts more attention than an outer planet mission, and regardless we'll send some of those there anyway during the testing phase.

  7. Why construct the laser array on Earth? A series of systems could be built that wouldn't destroy the target by over-heating or excessive G force. Also, the initial velocity could be created by swinging a solar sail around the sun. Then individual targets could be cranked up to 20% of C without excessive acceleration or heating problems.

  8. How about starting with a bunch of smaller scale lower speed missions to outer solar system objects? Let's do some flybys of Uranus Neptune & some Kuiper Belt objects. We get some practice with the technology & some data on planets in the nearer term. Once we have confirmed that is doable, *then* try for interstellar.

  9. The direction of acceleration of a solar rate is according to the laser source.
    If you put a 2'nd array on Mars, you can use it only for a target at a dirrect line with Mars Earth, and only when both planets are alligned.

  10. 0.2c within the inner solar system?
    Sounds like fireworks that will dwarf any exploding spaceships we have seen yet.

    Why not stagger the laser projectors far out in the solar system and accelerate slower and longer. The inner projectors can illuminate the solar panels or mirrors of the outer projectors when the sail is out of direct range.

    A lot of conversion losses but the energy is free anyway. Lasers become managable in size and the sail will not need unobtanium to handle the thermal load. Laser projector infrastructure can propel itself outwards as soon as the first one is in position near earth or wherever they are built.

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