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NASA is working on laser-based propulsion


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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

A new type of propulsion system could see lasers being used to 'push' a spacecraft up to great speeds.

There's no denying that today's spacecraft are extremely slow - especially when you take in to account that it can take years even to travel to other planets within our own solar system.

Read More: http://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/news/291899/nasa-is-working-on-laser-based-propulsion

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I really wish the world had more desire to try and do things like this.

Everyone seems to cry that we should just worry about our own planet. Well, it's not going to be here forever. At some point for our species to survive we'll have to move.

Edited by Krytec
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Thats y they r trying to bend space. Love the way technology accelarates..

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Sounds like a pretty powerful laser that would be changing direction constantly to keep pointing at the same object while we spin on our axis and orbit the sun. There would need to be two powerful lasers waving around in the sky to propel an object no matter what side of the earth was facing it. More nightmares for air traffic controllers. And birds. :)

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Well, best of luck to all those involved.

I fully understand the concept but I fail to see much practical use in this case.

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I just want a better system so we can achieve the speeds we need to leave our solar system and explore the galaxy, im not interested in what

seems like a bit of a damp squib, they say this laser propulsion system cant be used for heavy objects, on to the next idea then i say

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Sounds like a pretty powerful laser that would be changing direction constantly to keep pointing at the same object while we spin on our axis and orbit the sun. There would need to be two powerful lasers waving around in the sky to propel an object no matter what side of the earth was facing it. More nightmares for air traffic controllers. And birds. :)

From the linkied article:

A larger craft, like the kind humans might travel in, would take around a month to get there (Edit: talking about Mars here) - one-fifth of the time it would take the Space Launch System (SLS), the world's most powerful rocket currently being developed to take us to Mars.

that in the 10 minutes it will take to get the SLS into orbit, photonic propulsion could propel a spacecraft to an unheard-of 30 percent the speed of light - and it would also use a similar amount of chemical energy (50 to 100 gigawatts) to do so.

Lightweight craft, 10 minutes to the fastest speed ever achieved.

Besides, doing over the long term, all you need are two or maybe three lasers evenly distributed around the globe.

And, you don't have to continually fire the laser at the craft. If you miss a hour or two a day, that's just how many hours you are behind compared to the maximum efficiency.

If that's acceptable, which if you think about it, how can it not be, then it's not a problem at all.

Harte

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So what happens when you get out of the laser's reach? The craft is stranded? Well im sure they would use other means. Still a pretty cool concept.

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I was wondering... Since the EM's drive is weak. What if we propel a laser with otit behind a ship full of people and have a constant EM propelled laser behind the main ship the entire time?

Or would the laser's energy pushing against the main ship overpower the EM drive and just push the laser back?

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I really wish the world had more desire to try and do things like this.

Everyone seems to cry that we should just worry about our own planet. Well, it's not going to be here forever. At some point for our species to survive we'll have to move.

EARTH FIRST!

Then we'll **** up the rest of the planets?

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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

Or would the laser's energy pushing against the main ship overpower the EM drive and just push the laser back?

^This.

Plus to have the laser following the main spacecraft at a constant dianne you would have to have a propulsion system on the laser, which rather defeats the object.

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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

So what happens when you get out of the laser's reach? The craft is stranded?

When the craft is out of the laser's reach you will stop accelerating but you won't stop moving. You won't be stranded you will just have reached your maximum velocity.

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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

I fully understand the concept but I fail to see much practical use in this case.

The potential practical uses are enormous.

Because the propulsion system and fuel are left on the ground the spaceship can be considerably smaller and lighter. This will hugely reduce launch costs.

A lighter vehicle is easier to accelerate so higher velocity can be achieved per unit energy expended.

Like an ion drive propelled vehicle such a laser propelled craft could accelerate over long periods of time, but even ion drive requires fuel and fuel tanks.

With the propulsion system remaining on the ground any malfunction will be easier to repair.

The laser will be totally reusable, once again reducing costs.

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Are NASA claiming laser propulsion is a new idea, or are they saying they are further developing an idea tested a decade and a half ago?

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I guess I should actually read the article thoroughly, but in the meantime, I disagree that our spacecraft are 'slow'. Even if they travel near the absolute 'speed limit', everybody will be waiting many many years to explore anything beyond our measly little back yard. The problem is that the distances are beyond huge...

And I'm hearing that much of the propulsion systems are not on board the spacecraft for this system, which means it is only really suitable for probes.. There is a bit of a problem if you reach great speeds... and then cannot stop unless you hit something very, very hard....

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I guess I should actually read the article thoroughly, but in the meantime, I disagree that our spacecraft are 'slow'. Even if they travel near the absolute 'speed limit', everybody will be waiting many many years to explore anything beyond our measly little back yard. The problem is that the distances are beyond huge...

And I'm hearing that much of the propulsion systems are not on board the spacecraft for this system, which means it is only really suitable for probes.. There is a bit of a problem if you reach great speeds... and then cannot stop unless you hit something very, very hard....

Small amounts of some sort of propellant for retro rockets/maneuverability would allow a craft to maneuver to utilize gravity for braking. Or, perhaps use solar power or solar wind to accomplish it (use solar wind by turning around and catching it with the sail.)

Harte

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Solar winds are too unpredictable to be reliable methinks ~

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Small amounts of some sort of propellant for retro rockets/maneuverability would allow a craft to maneuver to utilize gravity for braking. Or, perhaps use solar power or solar wind to accomplish it (use solar wind by turning around and catching it with the sail.)

Harte

Hmm. At these sort of (relativistic..?) speeds? My understanding is that gravity slingshots/slowdowns have many limitations, including that you need to find something going (fast) in the right direction, and you also need to get very close if you need a major speed change. And of course for a solar wind slowdown, well, you need a Star in the right place and a big sail that you have to bring... I ain't a practising expert on those topics, but I do know that slowing down is as big a problem as speeding up, if you are talking about a spacecraft that has occupants...

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Hmm. At these sort of (relativistic..?) speeds? My understanding is that gravity slingshots/slowdowns have many limitations, including that you need to find something going (fast) in the right direction, and you also need to get very close if you need a major speed change. And of course for a solar wind slowdown, well, you need a Star in the right place and a big sail that you have to bring... I ain't a practising expert on those topics, but I do know that slowing down is as big a problem as speeding up, if you are talking about a spacecraft that has occupants...

Slowing down is indeed a very big problem. If we a re talking relativistic speeds, gravity assist is never going to be enough and the light from the destination sun is not going to be enough either (its not concentrated enough). Remeber we needed a laser to push it in the first place, so unless there is a similar laser at the destination (very unlikely !) you are going to have to do something else to decelerate and that means additional mass to begin with. Lasersail are probably best suited for missions that just passes through a solar system rather than entering orbit. Just like how the Pioneer and Voyager probes just passed by Jupiter and Saturn, before the more advanced Galileo and Cassini probes came along and entered orbit.

On the other hand there is one possible solution to the decelaration problem and that is the magnetic sail. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_sail#Interstellar_travel

This link has some of the potential problems of interstellar travel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_travel

Basically it come down to the incredible amounts of energy it takes to accelerate even a small probe to reach relativistic speeds.

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Could the laser beam be kept parallel enough? The lasers used to reflect off the Moon have a width of over 5 kilometers by the time they reach Moon.

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This still strikes me as a really bad idea.

"OH $#!+! We just carved a hole in Iceland. My bad!"

Again how will this work in zero G? Won't it just move around like a balloon when it is let loose?

Edited by BeastieRunner
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