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Title: Ground-to-orbit laser propulsion: Advanced applications

Laser propulsion uses a large fixed laser to supply energy to heat an inert propellant in a rocket thruster. Such a system has two potential advantages: extreme simplicity of the thruster, and potentially high performance -- particularly high exhaust velocity. By taking advantage of the simplicity of the thruster, it should be possible to launch small (10--1000 kg) payloads to orbit using roughly 1 MW of average laser power per kg of payload. The incremental cost of such launches would be of order $200/kg for the smallest systems, decreasing to essentially the cost of electricity to run the laser (a few times $10/kg) for large systems. Although the individual payload size would be small, a laser launch system would be inherently high-volume, with the capacity to launch tens of thousands of payloads per year. Also, with high exhaust velocity, a laser launch system could launch payloads to high velocities -- geosynchronous transfer, Earth escape, or beyond -- at a relatively small premium over launches to LEO. In this paper, we briefly review the status of pulsed laser propulsion, including proposals for advanced vehicles. We then discuss qualitatively several unique applications appropriate to the early part of the next century, andmore » perhaps valuable well into the next millenium: space habitat supply, deep space mission supply, nuclear waste disposal, and manned vehicle launching.« less
Authors:
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
6203669
Report Number(s):
UCRL-JC-104214
ON: DE91004787
DOE Contract Number:
W-7405-ENG-48
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA (USA)
Sponsoring Org:
DOD
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; 33 ADVANCED PROPULSION SYSTEMS; LASERS; PROPULSION SYSTEMS; RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL; SPACE VEHICLES; USES; MANAGEMENT; VEHICLES; WASTE DISPOSAL; WASTE MANAGEMENT 320201* -- Energy Conservation, Consumption, & Utilization-- Transportation-- Air & Aerospace; 330000 -- Advanced Propulsion Systems