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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Apr > Apr 19

Flying Saucer Model Use Lasers As Energy Source

From: Don Allen <dona@amigo.net>
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 02:54:52 -0600
Fwd Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 08:51:34 -0400
Subject: Flying Saucer Model Use Lasers As Energy Source

Source -


Space Science News

Riding the Highways of Light

Science mimics science fiction as a working
model flying disc - a "Lightcraft" - takes to the air

April 16, 1999: It looks like another fine product of Area 51,
and it really is shaped like a flying disc, and would even fly
like one. If it works, the family tree will trace back not to
Roswell, New Mexico, but Troy, New York.

"It came out of a trans-atmospheric vehicle design course at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute," which is in Troy, explained
Prof. Leik Myrabo.

The microwave Lightcraft being studied by Myrabo and his
students is shaped that way because that's how the physics
works. It's an advanced derivative of a tiny, 25-gram craft that
he is pushing around on a 10 kilowatt beam of infrared laser
light in tests at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Myrabo discussed his work last week during the Advanced
Propulsion Research Workshop held in Huntsville.

"This is where we are now," Myrabo said, showing a picture of
Dr. Robert Goddard with his first liquid propellant rocket,
launched March 16, 1926. Just 43 years later, a sophisticated
descendant of that rocket sent the first humans to the Moon.

"My goal has been to cut the cost of getting to space by a
factor of 1,000 using a system that is completely green," he
explained of his passion for the past three decades. Since 1972,
he has been building on an idea developed by Arthur Kantrowitz
to use lasers to launch satellites. Myrabo introduced a
variation using the atmosphere as the propellant heated by a
laser. At higher altitude and at 5.5 times the speed of sound,
as the air thins, the craft would use a small supply of on board
hydrogen, still heated by the remote laser beam.

Myrabo's initial design for NASA was a 5-meter (16.5 ft)
diameter, four-person craft - "ma and pa in the front, two kids
and a dog in the back" - in a shape that he dubbed Acorn. The
front is shaped to reflect the coherent laser light into a
narrow region between the body and a shroud. The focused light
superheats the air to become a jet exhaust that pushes the craft
up. In this case, the laser power station would be based in

He next worked on the Toy Top design which reversed the optics
for lasers based on the ground. The Strategic Defense Initiative
Organization was interested in this approach for rapid launches
of satellites weighing around 100 kg (220 lbs).

Under continued Air Force and NASA sponsorship, Myrabo has
developed and test flown a 15 cm (6 inch) diameter model of  the
Toy Top Lightcraft.

"We just passed Goddard's second flight of 92 feet (28 meters),"
Myrabo said. That limit, though, is set at 120 ft (37 m)  by a
light shield erected by a crane to stop the light beam and
eliminate the chance of blinding a satellite sensor.

The next step is to develop a 150 kilowatt laser that would
boost a larger model to 30 km (18 mi) altitude. Eventually, a 1
gigawatt laser would be needed to orbit satellites as
Kantrowitz, Myrabo, and others have long envisioned.

It's possible, though, that it all might be supplanted by
mid-21st century by the microwave Lightcraft. When word of his
work got around to the Space Studies Institute in Princeton,
Myrabo was asked if he could design a similar craft that used
microwaves beamed from space since microwave transmitters were a
more mature technology than lasers.

Myrabo (right) watches as students at Rensselaer run a computer
simulation for the air spike wind tunnel test on the Lightcraft
model held by the student at left. (RPI photo)

The concept that evolved is a part airship, microwave receiver,
and (the smallest part) jet and rocket engine, and as green as
any space concept. The 12-person, 20-meter (66 ft) craft would
be powered from the Earth's surface to the Moon by sunlight
captured by an orbiting power station (1 km diameter, 20 GW
power), converted to microwaves, and  beamed to rectennas
(rectifying antennas) that turn it back into electricity on the
Lightcraft. That's where the saucer shape comes from.

The airship part is a pressurized helium balloon-type structure
made of advanced silicon carbide film (transparent to
microwaves) to make the craft partly buoyant and to provide for
a large parabolic reflector for the energy beamed from space.
The craft would be encircled by two superconducting magnet rings
and a series of ion engines, and topped with solar cells.

At launch, the Lightcraft would use electricity from its solar
cells (powered by an infrared space-based laser at night) to
ionize the air and move the craft through electrostatic
discharges. The craft could move at 80 to 160 km/h (50-100 mph).

That's just low gear. Switching on the microwave transmitter
would make the Lightcraft disappear in less than an eye blink.
The microwaves would be focused by the internal reflector to
heat the air on one side or the other of the craft and push it
in the opposite direction.

"This is used to climb out to a good altitude and beyond the
speed of sound where you use the magnetohydrodynamic drive,"
Myrabo continued. Now the craft tilts from flying edgewise to
flying flat into the air stream. That seems wrong but for
another trick.  The microwaves are reflected forward to create a
superhot bubble of air above the craft and form an air spike
that acts as the nose cone as the Lightcraft accelerates to 25
times the speed of sound.

"This cleans up the aerodynamics of a vehicle that does not look
like it should fly in that direction," Myrabo said. Even better,
when the load is properly balanced the craft sails through the
air without leaving a shock wave and virtually no supersonic
wake. Water is used by the craft to cool the rectennas and as a
propellant in the last stages of ascent.

At least initially, during the prototype phase, it won't be for
everyone, just NASA and military test pilots. The
hyper-energetic performance will require that the crew ride in
liquid-filled escape pods to protect them from g-forces greater
than even fighter pilots occasionally endure. In some Air Force
Space Command schemes, the crew would breath an oxygenated fluid
to protect their lungs.

It all sounds a bit too much like science fiction, but Myrabo
points out that most of the technologies or principles have been
demonstrated. Faculty and students at Rensselaer have
demonstrated the MHD slipstream accelerator and the air spike
concept in a high-speed wind tunnel, and will test new models of
other parts of the propulsion system later this year.

"If successful, this will cut the cost of getting to space to
whatever someone wants to charge for electricity from the
orbiting power station," Myrabo said. "You could go halfway
around the world in 45 minutes, or from the Earth to the Moon in
about 5-1/2 hours."

At the Moon, the Lightcraft would zoom down a series of
ring-shaped electromagnets that would slow the craft, or could
accelerate another Lightcraft for the return to Earth.

"This would require a fully mature infrastructure to support
these vehicles," Myrabo said. But it could bring about an era of
airline-like space travel on "highways of Light."


"Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God" - Thomas Jefferson

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