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Review: Laser-Ablation Propulsion

Phipps , Claude and Birkan, Mitat and Bohn, Willy and Eckel, Hans-Albert and Horisawa, Hideyuki and Lippert, Thomas and Michaelis, Max and Rezunkov, Yuri and Sasoh, Akihiro and Schall, Wolfgang and Scharring, Stefan and Sinko, John (2010) Review: Laser-Ablation Propulsion. Journal of Propulsion and Power, 26 (4), pp. 609-637. AIAA. DOI: 10.2514/1.43733. ISSN 0748-4658.

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Abstract

LASER ablation propulsion (LAP) is a major new electric propulsion concept with a 35-year history. In LAP, an intense laser beam [pulsed or continuous wave (CW)] strikes a condensedmatter surface (solid or liquid) and produces a jet of vapor or plasma. Just as in a chemical rocket, thrust is produced by the resulting reaction force on the surface. Spacecraft and other objects can be propelled in this way. In some circumstances, there are advantages for this technique compared with other chemical and electric propulsion schemes. It is difficult to make a performance metric for LAP, because only a few of its applications are beyond the research phase and because it can be applied in widely different circumstances that would require entirely different metrics. These applications range from milliwatt-average-power satellite attitude-correction thrusters through kilowatt-average-power systems for reentering near-Earth space debris and megawatt-to-gigawatt systems for direct launch to lowEarth orbit (LEO). We assume an electric laser rather than a gas-dynamic or chemical laser driving the ablation, to emphasize the performance as an electric thruster. How is it possible for moderate laser electrical efficiency to givevery high electrical efficiency? Because laser energy can be used to drive an exothermic reaction in the target material controlled by the laser input, and electrical efficiency only measures the ratio of exhaust power to electrical power. This distinction may seem artificial, but electrical efficiency is a key parameter for space applications, in which electrical power is at a premium. The laser system involved in LAP may be remote from the propelled object (on another spacecraft or planet-based), for example, in laser-induced space-debris reentry or payload launch to low planetary orbit. In other applications (e.g., the laser–plasma microthruster that we will describe), a lightweight laser is part of the propulsion engine onboard the spacecraft.

Document Type:Article
Title:Review: Laser-Ablation Propulsion
Authors:
AuthorsInstitution or Email of Authors
Phipps , ClaudePhotonic Associates, LLC
Birkan, MitatU.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research
Bohn, WillyBohnLaser Consult
Eckel, Hans-AlbertUNSPECIFIED
Horisawa, HideyukiTokai University
Lippert, ThomasPaul Scherrer Institut
Michaelis, MaxUniversity of KwaZulu–Natal
Rezunkov, YuriNIIKI Sosnovy Bor
Sasoh, AkihiroDepartment of Aerospace Engineering, Nagoya University, Japan
Schall, WolfgangWolfgang.Schall@gmx.de
Scharring, StefanUNSPECIFIED
Sinko, JohnKratos Defense and Security Solutions
Date:July 2010
Journal or Publication Title:Journal of Propulsion and Power
Refereed publication:Yes
In Open Access:No
In SCOPUS:Yes
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
Volume:26
DOI:10.2514/1.43733
Page Range:pp. 609-637
Editors:
EditorsEmail
Talley, Douglas G.U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory
Publisher:AIAA
Series Name:JOURNAL OF PROPULSION AND POWER
ISSN:0748-4658
Status:Published
Keywords:Laser propulsion, Laser thruster
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Aeronautics
HGF - Program Themes:Aircraft Research
DLR - Research area:Aeronautics
DLR - Program:L AR - Aircraft Research
DLR - Research theme (Project):L - Laser Research and Technology
Location: Stuttgart
Institutes and Institutions:Institute of Technical Physics
Deposited By: Dr.rer.nat. Hans-Albert Eckel
Deposited On:17 Jul 2010 23:37
Last Modified:26 Mar 2013 13:18

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