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Laser Propulsion May Beam Spacecraft To Orbit

Laser propulsion, or beamed energy propulsion, has been Liek Myrabo's dream for decades. He's an aerospace engineering professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Almost six years ago, I wrote an article about his efforts with small models - see First Flight of a Laser Powered Airplane .

Now, he's working on tests with two pulsed infrared lasers with peak power in the gigawatt range, the highest power experiments to date, at the Henry T. Nagamatsu Laboratory of Hypersonics and Aerothermodynamics at the IEAv-CTA in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil.

He's also researching the possibility of other concepts for non-chemical propulsion, like point-to-point personalized mass transit around the planet at hypersonic speeds.

"In the lab we're doing full-size engine segment tests for vehicles that will revolutionize access to space," Myrabo emphasized. "It's real hardware. It's real physics. We're getting real data...and it's not paper studies."

"Right now, we're chasing the data," Myrabo said. "When you fire into the engine, it's a real wallop. It sounds like a shotgun going off inside the lab. It's really loud."

Take a look at this description of laser cannon used to propel a spacecraft to another star system in Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye. The basic idea for light cannon propulsion systems was suggested by Robert L. Forward in 1961.

From Space.com.

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