We evaluate the performance of a 10 W CW Ytterbium doped fiber amplifier system operating at 1064 nm suitable for use in a laser phased array directed energy system. The amplifier is optimized for use in a beacon based phased array topology.
Directed energy propulsion for interstellar travel has been proposed as an ideal method for reaching appreciable speeds relative to the speed of light: 0.2c. However, the amount of energy required necessitates a large aperture, on the order of kilometers, while mitigation of atmospheric perturbations requires a discretization of the aperture into many individual laser elements. The use of fiber lasers for these elements obligates mode-matching the fiber to the desired 10 cm aperture for a collimated beam. Various collimation systems were designed and compared. A 3-lens system with one achromat and two aspheric lenses, with two of the lenses used as a Keplerian telescope to achieve a system-shortening effect was analyzed. A similar system made with a plano-convex lens replacing the large-aperture aspheric lens with two additional compensating lenses was compared. A single diffractive optic operating at F/8 was likewise considered. The optical performance of these systems was compared, as was the cost-effectiveness. Scalability to millions of elements was required, so cost-per-system was a crucial consideration factor. Possible manufacturing processes for a diffractive system were investigated, and stamping processes for replication were analyzed to determine the possibility of replication of such an optic reliably, cheaply, and with acceptable results.
With the goal of landing crewed missions on the Moon and Mars in the next decade, mineral deposits on asteroids represent a potentially important resource for emerging space colonies. Deep-space missions can contemplate in-situ resource utilization, should suitable compounds be present. A necessary step for eventual resource exploitation is characterization of material abundances within candidate asteroids. Mineral maps could be generated by deploying CubeSat spacecraft to targeted asteroids, using Remote Laser Evaporative Molecular Absorption (R-LEMA) spectroscopy. In the R-LEMA scheme, a directed energy beam is used to probe molecular composition of a remote target. The laser-heated spot serves as a high-temperature blackbody source and ejected molecules create a plume of surface materials in front of the spot. Molecular composition is investigated by using a spectrometer to view the heated spot through the plume. Laboratory experiments allow comparison between predicted and measured profiles. Preliminary experiments described in this paper make use of solid-state samples so as to develop a library of spectra for comparison to future spectra obtained from samples in the gas phase.