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The lightcraft projectRensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been developing a transatmospheric 'Lightcraft' technology which uses beamed laser energy to propel advanced shuttle craft to orbit. In the past several years, Rensselaer students have analyzed the unique combined-cycle Lightcraft engine, designed a small unmanned Lightcraft Technology Demonstrator, and conceptualized larger manned Lightcraft - to name just a few of the interrelated design projects. The 1990-91 class carried out preliminary and detailed design efforts for a one-person 'Mercury' Lightcraft, using computer-aided design and finite-element structural modeling techniques. In addition, they began construction of a 2.6 m-diameter, full-scale engineering prototype mockup. The mockup will be equipped with three robotic legs that 'kneel' for passenger entry and exit. More importantly, the articulated tripod gear is crucial for accurately pointing at, and tracking the laser relay mirrors, a maneuver that must be performed just prior to liftoff. Also accomplished were further design improvements on a 6-inch-diameter Lightcraft model (for testing in RPI's hypersonic tunnel), and new laser propulsion experiments. The resultant experimental data will be used to calibrate Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) codes and analytical laser propulsion models that can simulate vehicle/engine flight conditions along a transatmospheric boost trajectory. These efforts will enable the prediction of distributed aerodynamic and thruster loads over the entire full-scale spacecraft.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Messitt, Don G. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst. Troy, NY, United States)
Myrabo, Leik N. (Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst. Troy, NY, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Universities Space Research Association, Houston, Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Summer Conference. NASA(USRA: University Advanced Design Program
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19930020523Analytic PrimaryProceedings of the Seventh Annual Summer Conference. NASA/USRA: University Advanced Design Program