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  1. Laser Propulsion - Quo Vadis

    First, an introductory overview of the different types of laser propulsion techniques will be given and illustrated by some historical examples. Second, laser devices available for basic experiments will be reviewed ranging from low power lasers sources to inertial confinement laser facilities. Subsequently, a status of work will show the impasse in which the laser propulsion community is currently engaged. Revisiting the basic relations leads to new avenues in ablative and direct laser propulsion for ground based and space based applications. Hereby, special attention will be devoted to the impact of emerging ultra-short pulse lasers on the coupling coefficient andmore » specific impulse. In particular, laser sources and laser propulsion techniques will be tested in microgravity environment. A novel approach to debris removal will be discussed with respect to the Satellite Laser Ranging (SRL) facilities. Finally, some non technical issues will be raised aimed at the future prospects of laser propulsion in the international community.« less
  2. A Review of Laser Ablation Propulsion

    Laser Ablation Propulsion is a broad field with a wide range of applications. We review the 30-year history of laser ablation propulsion from the transition from earlier pure photon propulsion concepts of Oberth and Saenger through Kantrowitz's original laser ablation propulsion idea to the development of air-breathing 'Lightcraft' and advanced spacecraft propulsion engines. The polymers POM and GAP have played an important role in experiments and liquid ablation fuels show great promise. Some applications use a laser system which is distant from the propelled object, for example, on another spacecraft, the Earth or a planet. Others use a laser thatmore » is part of the spacecraft propulsion system on the spacecraft. Propulsion is produced when an intense laser beam strikes a condensed matter surface and produces a vapor or plasma jet. The advantages of this idea are that exhaust velocity of the propulsion engine covers a broader range than is available from chemistry, that it can be varied to meet the instantaneous demands of the particular mission, and that practical realizations give lower mass and greater simplicity for a payload delivery system. We review the underlying theory, buttressed by extensive experimental data. The primary problem in laser space propulsion theory has been the absence of a way to predict thrust and specific impulse over the transition from the vapor to the plasma regimes. We briefly discuss a method for combining two new vapor regime treatments with plasma regime theory, giving a smooth transition from one regime to the other. We conclude with a section on future directions.« less

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"Bohn, Willy"

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