Space debris constitutes a significant hazard to low earth orbit satellites and particularly to manned spacecraft. A quite small velocity decrease from vaporization impulses is enough to lower the perigee of the debris sufficiently for atmospheric drag to de-orbit the debris. A short pulse (picosecond) laser version of the Orion concept can accomplish this task in several years of operation. The "Mercury" short pulse Yb:S-FAP laser being developed at LLNL for laser fusion is appropriate for this task.
The new class of diode-pumped alkali vapor lasers (DPALs) offers high efficiency cw laser radiation at near-infrared wavelengths: cesium 895 nm, rubidium 795 nm, and potassium 770 nm. The working physical principles of DPALs will be presented. Initial 795 nm Rb and 895 nm Cs laser experiments performed using a titanium sapphire laser as a surrogate pump source demonstrated DPAL slope power conversion efficiencies in the 50-70% range, in excellent agreement with device models utilizing only literature spectroscopic and kinetic data. Using these benchmarked models for Rb and Cs, optimized DPALs with optical-optical efficiencies >60%, and electrical efficiencies of 25-30% are projected. DPAL device architectures for near-diffraction-limited power scaling into the high kilowatt power regime from a single aperture will be described. DPAL wavelengths of operation offer ideal matches to silicon and gallium arsenide based photovoltaic power conversion cells for efficient power beaming.
Diffractive lenses offer two potential advantages for very large aperture space telescopes; very loose surface-figure tolerances and physical implementation as thin, flat optical elements. In order to actually realize these advantages one must be able to build large diffractive lenses with adequate optical precision and also to compactly stow the lens for launch and then fully deploy it in space.
We will discuss the recent fabrication and assembly demonstration of a 5m glass diffractive Fresnel lens at LLNL. Optical performance data from smaller full telescopes with diffractive lens and corrective optics show diffraction limited performance with broad bandwidths. A systems design for a 20m space telescope will be presented. The primary optic can be rolled to fit inside of the standard fairings of the Delta IV vehicle. This configuration has a simple deployment and requires no orbital assembly. A twenty meter visible telescope could have a significant impact in conventional astronomy with eight times the resolution of Hubble and over sixty times the light gathering capacity. If the light scattering is made acceptable, this telescope could also be used in the search for terrestrial planets.