Experimental Results for Laser Pushed Propulsion

Philip Lubin and his team are continuing to make progress toward laser pushed sails. This is a way to achieve significant fractions of the speed of light for interstellar missions and a way to beam power for movement within the solar system at high speeds.

One of the key aspects to this work is phase locking an array of lasers. There is experimental progress towards phase-locking arrays of lasers.

There have been test for phase locking a handful of lasers in the lab and there were tests to phase lock at distances up to 22 kilometers.

By 2030, the hope is to use a 1.3 megawatt system to propel a cubesat.

500 megawatt systems could be used to send human missions to Mars within 30 days.

Lubin’s preliminary calculations indicate that a 100-GW phased laser array 10 km on a side could accelerate each Starchip spacecraft to 0.2c (20 percent of the speed of light) by firing for roughly three minutes. There are other teams working on the ultralight sail.