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"Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done and why. Then do it."
- Robert Heinlein

Laser Cannon  
  A laser source powerful enough to provide significant light pressure to a "light sail."  

The essential problem solved by laser cannon is the transmission of power over a very great distance. Since laser light is very focused, in theory the loss of power over a great distance from the source is reduced.

It would also make a formidable weapon.

They built my ship in two weeks flat. They started with a No. 2 General Products hull, just like the one around the Institute of Knowledge ship, and the lifesystem was practically a duplicate of the Laskins', but there the resemblance ended. There were no instruments to observe neutron stars. Instead, there was a fusion motor big enough for a Jinx warliner. In my ship, which I now called Skydiver, the drive would produce thirty gees at the safety limit. There was a laser cannon big enough to punch a hole through We Made It's moon. The puppeteer wanted me to feel safe, and now I did, for I could fight and I could run. Especially I could run.
From Neutron Star, by Larry Niven.
Published by Worls of If in 1966
Additional resources -

Although Larry Niven (and Jerry Pournelle) made more use of the laser cannon idea, in the sense of banks of powerful lasers, the first use of the phrase in a science fiction story was probably in The Furies, a 1965 story by Roger Zelazny appearing in Amazing Stories:

“I will now call the local ICI office and requisition a laser- cannon. They have been ordered to cooperate with us without question, and the orders are still in effect. My executioner’s rating has never been suspended. It appears that if we ever want to see this job completed we must do it ourselves. It won’t take long to mount the gun on your flyer. — Benedick, stay with him every minute now. He still has to buy the equipment, take it back, and install it..."

The term "laser cannon" was used earlier. In a 1962 book titled Report on Laser Design Study, we find "results of the design analysis indicate the feasibility of proceeding with the construction of a LASER cannon system at once."

Here's another quote from the Niven/Pournelle 1974 classic Mote in God's Eye:

"Captain, look," he said, and threw a plot of the local stellar region on the screen. "The intruder came from here. Whoever launched it fired a laser cannon, or a set of laser cannon - probably a whole mess of them on asteroids, with mirrors to focus them - for about forty-five years, so the intruder would have a beam to travel on. The beam and the intruder both came straight in from the Mote.

The basic idea for the laser cannon/light sail propulsion system belongs to Robert L. Forward, who published a short paper Ground-Based Lasers For Propulsion In Space in 1961. (Read a short autobiography of Robert Forward.) Dr. Forward gives a more detailed version of the idea in his 1985 novel Rocheworld; see the entry for Interstellar Laser Propulsion System.

Leik Myrabo of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has demonstrated that ground-based lasers can be used to shoot objects into the heavens. The small model craft succeeded in reaching over 100 feet, which compares well to the first test flight of a rocket design by Robert Goddard.

Myrabo's "lightcraft" design is a reflective funnel-shaped craft that channels heat from the laser, towards the center, causing it to literally explode the air underneath it, generating lift.

For more on early uses of solar sail, see the entry from Jack Vance's Sail 25, and starlight sail (light sail) from Cordwainer Smith's The Lady who Sailed The Soul.

The idea of using light pressure to move a spaceship was suggested by Jules Verne in his 1867 novel From the Earth to the Moon; see the entry for light pressure propulsion. The method was explicitly described by Edmond Hamilton in his 1929 short story The Comet Doom; see the entry for ship propelled by light pressure.

See also the launching laser from The Fourth Profession (1971) by Larry Niven.

Compare to these propulsion systems: Light Pressure Propulsion (1867), apergy (1880), Beam-Powered Propulsion (1931), Granton motor (1933), Vibration-Propelled Cruiser (1928), geodynes (1936), ion drive (1947), Planetary Propulsion-Blasts (1934), stardrive (1953), solar sail (light sail) (1962), Lyle drive (1961), laser cannon (1966), Bussard ramjet (1976), asymptotic drive (1976), Interstellar Laser Propulsion System (1985).

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Neutron Star
  More Ideas and Technology by Larry Niven
  Tech news articles related to Neutron Star
  Tech news articles related to works by Larry Niven

Laser Cannon-related news articles:
  - First Flight of a Laser Powered Airplane
  - HELLADS: Lightweight Laser Cannon
  - Laser-Powered Aircraft Model Tested
  - Laser Propulsion May Beam Spacecraft To Orbit
  - Laser-Powered Helicopter
  - Laser Lofts UAV for Two Day Flight
  - HEL MD Laser Weapons Will Sound Like Star Wars, Star Trek
  - Laser-Powered Spacecraft To Explore The Solar System
  - Breakthrough Starshot Sends Chip Craft To The Stars
  - Breakthrough Starshot Sprites Yearn For Alpha Centauri

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Olympus 3D Printing Using Lunar And Martian Materials
'Parastronaut' First Astronaut With Disability From ESA (Updated!)
Mars Space Weather Alert (MSWA) System
Hovering Over The Lunar Surface

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