A Review of Laser — Based Propulsion
Laser-based propulsion is one of the more interesting ideas of ‘engine-less’ propulsion, where the mass penalties of traditional (chemical rocket) propulsion systems are avoided by eliminating the need for engine or fuel carried on board the spacecraft. In particular, compared with solar sailing, laser-momentum propulsion offers the possibility to gain orders of magnitude in photon pressure, and has therefore been proposed as a candidate for reaching large interplanetary and even interstellar distances. The solutions to the technological challenges posed to make such systems effective are non-trivial.
This poster paper was written during the author’s Master of Space Studies placement at The Planetary Society, Pasadena, California. This paper discusses briefly laser-based propulsion, outlines some of the obstacles to laser sailing, and offers a view of the state of the art. A copy of a more detailed paper, written for the IAF Congress 2000 in Brazil, can be obtained on request from the author.
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