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Proceedings Paper

Building the future of WaferSat spacecraft for relativistic spacecraft
Author(s): Travis Brashears; Philip Lubin; Nic Rupert; Eric Stanton; Amal Mehta; Patrick Knowles; Gary B. Hughes
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Paper Abstract

Recently, there has been a dramatic change in the way space missions are viewed. Large spacecraft with massive propellant-filled launch stages have dominated the space industry since the 1960’s, but low-mass CubeSats and low-cost rockets have enabled a new approach to space exploration. In recent work, we have built upon the idea of extremely low mass (sub 1 kg), propellant-less spacecraft that are accelerated by photon propulsion from dedicated directed-energy facilities. Advanced photonics on a chip with hybridized electronics can be used to implement a laser-based communication system on board a sub 1U spacecraft that we call a WaferSat. WaferSat spacecraft are equipped with reflective sails suitable for propulsion by directed-energy beams. This low-mass spacecraft design does not require onboard propellant, creating significant new opportunities for deep space exploration at a very low cost. In this paper, we describe the design of a prototype WaferSat spacecraft, constructed on a printed circuit board. The prototype is envisioned as a step toward a design that could be launched on an early mission into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), as a key milestone in the roadmap to interstellar flight. In addition to laser communication, the WaferSat prototype includes subsystems for power source, attitude control, digital image acquisition, and inter-system communications.

Paper Details

Date Published: 19 September 2016
PDF: 8 pages
Proc. SPIE 9981, Planetary Defense and Space Environment Applications, 998104 (19 September 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2238471
Show Author Affiliations
Travis Brashears, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Philip Lubin, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Nic Rupert, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Eric Stanton, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Amal Mehta, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Patrick Knowles, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara (United States)
Gary B. Hughes, California Polytechnic State Univ., San Luis Obispo (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9981:
Planetary Defense and Space Environment Applications
Gary B. Hughes, Editor(s)

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