19 September 2016 Relativistic solutions to directed energy
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Abstract
This paper analyses the nature and feasibility of using directed energy to propel probes through space at relativistic speeds. Possible mission scenarios are considered by varying the spacecraft mass, thickness of the sail and power of the directed energy array. We calculate that gram-scaled probes are capable of achieving relativistic speeds and reaching Alpha Centauri well within a human lifetime. A major drawback is the diffraction of the beam which reduces the incident power on the sail resulting in a terminal velocity for the probes. Various notions of efficiency are discussed and we conclude that directed energy propulsion provides a viable direction for future space exploration.
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Neeraj Kulkarni, Philip M. Lubin, Qicheng Zhang, "Relativistic solutions to directed energy", Proc. SPIE 9981, Planetary Defense and Space Environment Applications, 998106 (19 September 2016); doi: 10.1117/12.2238094; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2238094
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