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Proceedings Paper

The ALP-PALS Project: optimal coupling for laser propulsion
Author(s): F. P. Boody; J. Badziak; H.-A. Eckel; S. Gammino; J. Krása; L. Láska; A. Mezzasalma; A. J. Pakhomov; P. Parys; M. Pfeifer; T. Pisarczyk; K. Rohlena; W. Schall; L. Torrisi; J. Wołowski
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Paper Abstract

Since the early 1970s ablative laser propulsion (ALP) has promised to revolutionize space travel by reducing the 30:1 propellant/payload ratio needed for near-earth orbit by up to a factor of 50, by leaving the power source on the ground. But the necessary sub-ns high average power lasers were not available. Dramatic recent progress in laser diodes for pumping solid-state lasers is changing that. Recent results from military laser weapons R&D programs, combined with progress on ceramic disk lasers, suddenly promise lasers powerful enough for automobile-size, if not space shuttle-size payloads, not only the 4 - 10 kg "microsatellites" foreseen just a few years ago. For ALP, the 1.6-μm Er:YAG laser resonantly pumped by InP diode lasers is especially promising. Prior coupling experiments have demonstrated adequate coupling coefficients and specific impulses, but were done with too long pulses and too low pulse energies. The properties of ions produced and the ablated surface were generally not measured but are necessary for understanding and modeling propulsion properties. ALP-PALS will realistically measure ALP parameters using the Prague Asterix Laser System (PALS) high power photodissociation iodine laser (λ = 1.315 μm, EL ≤1 kJ, τ ~ 400 ps, beam diameter ~29 cm, flat beam profile) whose parameters match those required for application. PALS' 1.3-μm λ is a little short (vs. 1.53-1.72 μm) but is the closest available and PALS' 2ω / 3ω capability allows wavelength dependence to be studied.

Paper Details

Date Published: 7 June 2006
PDF: 6 pages
Proc. SPIE 6261, High-Power Laser Ablation VI, 62611V (7 June 2006); doi: 10.1117/12.669588
Show Author Affiliations
F. P. Boody, Ion Light Technologies GmbH (Germany)
J. Badziak, Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion (Poland)
H.-A. Eckel, Deutsche Luft - und Raumfahrt (Germany)
S. Gammino, INFN, Lab. Nazionali del Sud (Italy)
J. Krása, Institute of Physics (Czech Republic)
L. Láska, Institute of Physics (Czech Republic)
A. Mezzasalma, Univ. of Messina (Italy)
A. J. Pakhomov, Univ. of Alabama in Huntsville (United States)
P. Parys, Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion (Poland)
M. Pfeifer, Institute of Physics (Czech Republic)
T. Pisarczyk, Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion (Poland)
K. Rohlena, Institute of Physics (Czech Republic)
W. Schall, Deutsche Luft- and Raumfahrt (Germany)
L. Torrisi, INFN, Lab. Nazionali del Sud (Italy)
Univ. of Messina (Italy)
J. Wołowski, Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Microfusion (Poland)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6261:
High-Power Laser Ablation VI
Claude R. Phipps, Editor(s)

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