4Landis - Advanced Solar- and Laser-pushed Lightsail...

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Unformatted text preview: Advanced Solar- and Laser-pushed Lightsail Concepts Final Report May 31, 1999 NASAInstitute for Advanced Concepts 1998 Phase I Advanced Aeronautical/Space Concept Studies Principle Investigator: Geoffrey A. Landis Ohio Aerospace Institute 22800 Cedar Point Road Brook Park, OH 44142 Phone: (216) 433-2238 Fax: (216) 433-6106 e-mail: geoffrey.landis@alum.mit.edu Advanced Solar- and Laser-pushed Lightsail Concepts Geoffrey A. Landis Abstract Beam-pushed propulsion systems, such as solar- laser-, or microwave- pushed sails, allow the possibility of fuel-free propulsion in space. This makes possible missions of extremely high delta=V, potentially as high as 30,000 km/sec (0.1c), which is required for an fly-by mission to a nearby star. This project analyzed the potential use of dielectric thin films for solar and laser sails. The advantages are extremely light weight and good high temperature properties, which are necessary for both for solar-sail missions inward toward the sun, for solar sail missions outward from the sun that use a close perihelion pass to build speed, and for high velocity laser-pushed missions for the outer solar system and for interstellar probes. Because of the higher temperature capability, the sails can operate under higher laser illumination levels, and hence achieve higher acceleration. This allows large decreases in the minimum size of the sail required. The project also made an analysis of the possibility of microwave-pushed sail propulsion. Microwave sails have the advantage that high-power microwave sources are already existing technology. The study made a new re-analysis of a concept proposed by Robert Forward, and found that a carbon mesh sail is preferable to the aluminum sail proposed by Forward, due to better high-temperature properties. Beam propulsion concepts can be used for lower delta-V missions as well. Candidate missions include fast-transit missions to the outer planets, Kuiper and Oort cloud missions, and interstellar precursor missions. The preliminary analysis indicates that the power required for an interstellar mission using a laser-pushed lightsail could be reduced to 448 MW by the use of a dielectric sail. This is a considerable reduction from the 65 GW required for the baseline mission. It makes the power requirement for the interstellar mission an amount that can be achieved in the reasonable future, and not an unreasonable amount which would require nearly a hundred dedicated electrical power plants. Figure 1: conceptual view of a beam-pushed interstellar probe 1.0 INTRODUCTION Envision a future of space exploration, featuring featherweight microprobes on iridescent sails, tiny vehicles sailing on solar power with trip times of a few weeks to Mars or Venus-- a month to Jupiter-- with the assistance of a laser push, trip times of a month or so to the outer planets and Pluto. Exploration of the Oort cloud and the fringes of interstellar space would be possible in only a year's travel time, and probes to...
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4Landis - Advanced Solar- and Laser-pushed Lightsail...

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