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Ground-to-orbit laser propulsion: Advanced applicationsLaser 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 to 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 an order of $200/kg for the smallest systems, decreasing to essentially the cost of electricity to run the laser (a few times $10/kg) for larger systems. Although the individual payload size would be smaller, 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. The status of pulsed laser propulsion is briefly reviewed including proposals for advanced vehicles. Several applications appropriate to the early part of the next century and perhaps valuable well into the next millennium are discussed qualitatively: space habitat supply, deep space mission supply, nuclear waste disposal, and manned vehicle launching.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Kare, Jordin T.
(Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Livermore, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 1990
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Lewis Research Center, Vision-21: Space Travel for the Next Millennium
Subject Category
Lasers And Masers
Accession Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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