Tech Briefs

The cost per unit payload might be reduced by orders of magnitude.

The analysis performed in the present study included consideration, not only of the lightcraft proper, but also of the ground-based laser system and other supporting systems. Major attention was given to the incident laser power needed for propulsion. In taking account of the degrading effects of distance and propagation through the atmosphere upon the laser beam, it was found that energy and power losses are extremely sensitive to the laser wavelength and that 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. In a comprehensive analysis of costs associated with development and operation of the conceptual lightcraft propulsion system, it was estimated the cost of launching into orbit would lie between $20 and $200 per kilogram of payload — of the order of a thousandth to a hundredth of the standard spacelaunch industry cost per kilogram of payload launched by use of conventional chemical rocket propulsion systems.

This work was done by Franklin B. Mead, Jr. of the Air Force Research Laboratory and Eric W. Davis of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Austin. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Mechanics/Machinery category. AFRL-0079

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Lightcraft Propulsion for Launching a Small Satellite (reference AFRL-0079) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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