Proceedings PaperFirst demonstration of photonic laser thruster (PLT)
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Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) is an innovative photon thruster that amplifies photon thrust by orders of magnitude by exploiting an active resonant optical cavity formed between two mirrors on paired spacecraft. PLT is predicted to be able to provide the thrust to power ratio (T/P) approaching that of conventional thrusters, such as laser ablation thrusters and electrical thrusters. Yet, PLT has the highest Isp of 3x107 sec, which is orders of magnitude larger than that of other conventional thrusters. We have demonstrated the photon thrust amplification in PLT for the first time. The T/P obtained with an OC mirror with R= 0.99967±0.00002 was 20±1 μN/W, and the maximum photon thrust obtained was 35 μN, resulting in an apparent photon thrust amplification factor of 2,990±150. Scaling-up of PLT is promising, and PLT is predicted to enable wide ranges of space endeavors. Low thrust (T<N) PLTs may enable nanometer precision spacecraft formation for forming ultralarge space telescopes and radars, and provide economically viable solution to Fractionated Spacecraft Architecture, the System F-6. Medium thrust (N<T<kN) PLTs may enable precision propellantless orbit changing and docking. High thrust (T>kN) PLTs may enable propelling spacecraft at speeds orders of magnitude greater than that by conventional thrusters.