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Proceedings Paper

Space polypropulsion
Author(s): B. J. Kellett; D. K. Griffin; R. Bingham; R. N. Campbell; A. Forbes; M. M. Michaelis
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Paper Abstract

Hybrid space propulsion has been a feature of most space missions. Only the very early rocket propulsion experiments like the V2, employed a single form of propulsion. By the late fifties multi-staging was routine and the Space Shuttle employs three different kinds of fuel and rocket engines. During the development of chemical rockets, other forms of propulsion were being slowly tested, both theoretically and, relatively slowly, in practice. Rail and gas guns, ion engines, "slingshot" gravity assist, nuclear and solar power, tethers, solar sails have all seen some real applications. Yet the earliest type of non-chemical space propulsion to be thought of has never been attempted in space: laser and photon propulsion. The ideas of Eugen Saenger, Georgii Marx, Arthur Kantrowitz, Leik Myrabo, Claude Phipps and Robert Forward remain Earth-bound. In this paper we summarize the various forms of nonchemical propulsion and their results. We point out that missions beyond Saturn would benefit from a change of attitude to laser-propulsion as well as consideration of hybrid "polypropulsion" - which is to say using all the rocket "tools" available rather than possibly not the most appropriate. We conclude with three practical examples, two for the next decades and one for the next century; disposal of nuclear waste in space; a grand tour of the Jovian and Saturnian moons - with Huygens or Lunoxod type, landers; and eventually mankind's greatest space dream: robotic exploration of neighbouring planetary systems.

Paper Details

Date Published: 23 May 2008
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 7005, High-Power Laser Ablation VII, 70052W (23 May 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.784659
Show Author Affiliations
B. J. Kellett, Rutherford Appleton Lab. (United Kingdom)
D. K. Griffin, Rutherford Appleton Lab. (United Kingdom)
R. Bingham, Rutherford Appleton Lab. (United Kingdom)
R. N. Campbell, Univ. of Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa)
A. Forbes, Univ. of Kwazulu–Natal (South Africa)
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (South Africa)
M. M. Michaelis, Univ. of Kwazulu-Natal (South Africa)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7005:
High-Power Laser Ablation VII
Claude R. Phipps, Editor(s)

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