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Proceedings Paper

Relativistic propulsion using directed energy
Author(s): Johanna Bible; Isabella Johansson; Gary B. Hughes; Philip M. Lubin
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Paper Abstract

We propose a directed energy orbital planetary defense system capable of heating the surface of potentially hazardous objects to the evaporation point as a futuristic but feasible approach to impact risk mitigation. The system is based on recent advances in high efficiency photonic systems. The system could also be used for propulsion of kinetic or nuclear tipped asteroid interceptors or other interplanetary spacecraft. A photon drive is possible using direct photon pressure on a spacecraft similar to a solar sail. Given a laser power of 70GW, a 100 kg craft can be propelled to 1AU in approximately 3 days achieving a speed of 0.4% the speed of light, and a 10,000 kg craft in approximately 30 days. We call the system DE-STAR for Directed Energy System for Targeting of Asteroids and exploRation. DE-STAR is a modular phased array of solid-state lasers, powered by photovoltaic conversion of sunlight. The system is scalable and completely modular so that sub elements can be built and tested as the technology matures. The sub elements can be immediately utilized for testing as well as other applications including space debris mitigation. The ultimate objective of DE-STAR would be to begin direct asteroid vaporization and orbital modification starting at distances beyond 1 AU. Using phased array technology to focus the beam, the surface spot temperature on the asteroid can be raised to more than 3000K, allowing evaporation of all known substances. Additional scientific uses of DE-STAR are also possible.

Paper Details

Date Published: 24 September 2013
PDF: 11 pages
Proc. SPIE 8876, Nanophotonics and Macrophotonics for Space Environments VII, 887605 (24 September 2013); doi: 10.1117/12.2035346
Show Author Affiliations
Johanna Bible, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Isabella Johansson, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Gary B. Hughes, California Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo (United States)
Philip M. Lubin, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 8876:
Nanophotonics and Macrophotonics for Space Environments VII
Edward W. Taylor; David A. Cardimona, Editor(s)

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