Lasers and microwaves are among the beamed-energy propulsion concepts the Advanced Space Transportation Program is pursuing. If the energy to propel a spacecraft doesn’t have to be carried on board the vehicle, significant weight reductions and performance improvements can be achieved. Beamed-energy propulsion uses a remote energy source — such as the Sun, a ground- or space-based laser or a microwave transmitter — to send power to the vehicle via a “beam” of electromagnetic radiation. Presently, beamed energy is the most promising technology to lower the cost of space transportation to tens of dollars per pound. Research into this technology is a joint effort of the Marshall Center, the Air Force Research Laboratory Propulsion Directorate at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, N.Y.
Parts of this page are very out of date, but I’m hopeful that some of this research is ongoing. Space exploration is one of my favorite things.1
- By now, this should be obvious to anyone. ↩