The aerospace industry has taken notice of a California researcher who, using off-the-shelf components, built and successfully demonstrated the world's first successful amplified photon thruster. Dr. Young Bae of the Bae Institute first demonstrated his Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) with an amplification factor of 3,000 in December, 2006.
Major aerospace agencies and primary contractors have since invited Bae to present his work, including NASA JPL, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory). Senior Aerospace Engineer at AFRL, Dr. Franklin Mead, "Dr. Bae's PLT demonstration and measurement of photon thrust (is) pretty incredible. I don't think anyone has done this before. It has generated a lot of interest."
Recently, the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, a peer-reviewed AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) Journal, accepted Dr. Bae's PLT demonstration paper, "Photonic Laser Propulsion: Proof-of-Concept Demonstration" for publication this year. In his paper Bae documents in explicit detail how he overcame the inherent inefficiencies of traditional photon thrusters in generating thrust by amplification with the use of an innovative optical cavity concept. For decades rocket scientists have tried to overcome the inefficiency of photon thrusters by amplification based on optical cavities separated from laser sources, but failed. In contrast, Bae's patent-pending PLT breakthrough places the laser medium within a resonant optical cavity between two platforms to produce a very stable and reliable thrust that is unaffected by mirror movement and vibration -- ideal for spacecraft control or propulsion.
Dr. Bae will be presenting his PLT concepts, demonstration, and applications at the AIAA Space 2007 Conference September 18-19 in Long Beach, CA, in four sessions: Space Transportation Systems, Promising Space Concepts from the NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts (NIAC), Space Systems for the Next 50 Years, and Advanced Vehicle Systems.
The PLT research was partially funded by NIAC (NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts) as part of a spacecraft formation flight concept grant.
Bae's PLT demonstration produced a photon thrust of 35 uN, which is sufficient for several space missions currently envisioned, and is scalable to achieve much greater photon thrust for future space missions. Applications for PLT include: highly precise satellite formation flying configurations for building large synthetic apertures in space for earth or space observation, precision contaminant-free spacecraft docking operations, and propelling spacecraft to unprecedented speeds greater than 100 km/sec.
Bae, looking forward with anticipation, observes, "This is the tip of the iceberg. PLT has immense potential for the aerospace industry. For example, PLT powered spacecraft could transit the 100 million km to Mars in less than a week." Several aerospace players have expressed intent to collaborate with the Bae Institute to further develop and integrate PLT into civilian, military, and commercial space systems.