Laser-powered “Lightcraft” systems that deliver nano-satellites to LEO have been studied for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The study was built on the extensive Lightcraft laser propulsion technology already developed by theoretical and experimental work by the AFRL’s Propulsion Directorate at Edwards AFB, CA. Here we review the history and engineering-physics of the laser Lightcraft system and its propulsive performance. We will also review the effectiveness and cost of a Lightcraft vehicle powered by a high-energy laser beam. One result of this study is the significant influence of laser wavelength on the power lost during laser beam propagation through Earth’s atmosphere and in space. It was discovered that energy and power losses in the laser beam are extremely sensitive to wavelength for Earth-to-Orbit missions, and this significantly affects the amount of mass that can be placed into orbit for a given maximum amount of radiated power from a ground-based laser.

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 Review Of Laser Lightcraft Propulsion System, October 16, 2017, by Dr. Eric W. Davis [13 Pages, 1MB]

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