Saturday, March 24, 2007

Space Access ‘07 - Saturday early evening - Leik Myrabo on Beamed energy

Leik Myrabo was the first speaker after lunch. Leik is a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His focus is using beamed energy to launch space ships. Leik showed an animation video of light beamed energy propulsion systems.

Leik says that beamed energy systems are systems which can last twenty or thirty years. In contrast chemical based rockets wear out very quickly. His vision is dozens or hundreds of orbiting solar systems.

He is looking at both laser beamed and microwave. It is all using today’s technology. This is a flight system beyond chemical, he sees it at the next generation propulsion system.

Leik is working with the Air Force to launch nano satellites, I think he said these are around a kilogram. The Air Force wants to be able do this on demand. He is doing some experiments this summer. The electricity costs for a single launch would be a couple thousand dollars. The small ships are rotating 11,000 (Pretty sure this is what he said) times a second, and getting blasted about 25 times a second.

He spoke very positively about Saturn V, and the new Ares plans. He speculated that Ares might be used to build the next space station, and that it could launch a whole new generation of space products.

The problem with the future of flight: When the price of petroleum soars beyond reach, what can we do about air flight, and space flight? He wants to develop new propulsion system, especially those which are environmentally friendly.

He is proposing putting a 500 meter in diameter facility at White Sands. He showed a small vehicle, he said it could be given a hundred gravities from beamed energy. He talked about the weight of a space system, it would take about 35 flights of Ares V to get the full system into orbit.

There was a question about how to make sure the beam systems weren’t used as a weapon. Leik said the beam satellites are soft targets. The first systems would be built on the ground, pointed up.

Clark's report

First: Introduction
Overview: the agenda
Previous: Dave Matsen of Matsen Space
Next: Panel on the New Space Investment Climate

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