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  1. 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
  2. CO2 Laser Absorption in Ablation Plasmas

    The impulse formation by laser ablation is limited by the premature absorption of the incident laser radiation in the initially produced cloud of ablation products. The power fraction of a CO2 laser pulse transmitted through a small hole in a POM sample for pulse energies of 35 to 150 J focused on a spot of 2 cm2 has been compared with the incident power. The plasma formation in vacuum and in air of 3500 Pa and the spread of the shock wave with velocities of 1.6 to 2.4 km/s in the low pressure air was observed by Schlieren photography. Amore » sharp edged dark zone with a maximum extension of 10 to 12 mm away from the target surface develops within 5 {mu}s independently of the pressure and is assumed to be a plasma. In order to find out, if this is also the zone where the majority of the incident laser radiation is absorbed, a CO2 probe laser beam was directed through the expansion cloud parallel to and at various distances from the sample surface. The time behavior of the absorption signal of the probe beam has been measured and an absorption wave could be observed.« less

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"Schall, Wolfgang"

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