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NASA Interested In Fuelless Laser Thruster (Video)

laser-thruster

A new thruster technology is getting funding from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts unit (NIAC). The innovative design, called Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT), could be what scientists might use in the future to maneuver spacecrafts in orbit or for space travel.

The technology involves using the energy from a laser’s photons for pushing a spacecraft away from the emitter of that laser. They are planning to use mirrors for bouncing photons back and forth to form a resonant optical cavity for accelerating the particles.

Lead researcher Dr. Bae explains a bit more in the video below:

As you might know, currently NASA utilizes things like xenon ion thrusters, but they still use up fuel. But PLT’s limited range is a problem; if the spacecraft exceeds the 1000 km range, it will have to fly on its own momentum. So PLT seems to be best suited for making short-range adjustments such as a small push for maintaining an orbit. And a low powered beam from the photon thrusters can allow us to make very tiny adjustments.

As you saw in the video, PLT could be utilized for building space structures. The thrusters will push spacecrafts away, while tethers will be used to pull them in and connect them. So, for example, building a big telescope in the future could be done without much hardware and the costs will be low as well.

Dr. Bae’s plan is to put a test vehicle into space and the NIAC grant will be a great help. But it’s for just $500,000 and Dr. Bae is currently searching for outside funding sources.

Head here if you are interested in knowing more about the new technology. And don’t forget to leave your thoughts about it in the box below.

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