Earth‐to‐Orbit Laser Launch Simulation for a Lightcraft Technology Demonstrator Conference Paper uri icon

abstract

  • Optimized laser launch trajectories have been developed for a 1.4 m diameter, 120 kg (empty mass) Lightcraft Technology Demonstrator (LTD). The lightcraft's combined-cycle airbreathing/rocket engine is designed for single-stage-to-orbit flights with a mass ratio of 2 propelled by a 100 MW class ground-based laser built on a 3 km mountain peak. Once in orbit, the vehicle becomes an autonomous micro-satellite. Two types of trajectories were simulated with the SORT (Simulation and Optimization of Rocket Trajectories) software package: a) direct GBL boost to orbit, and b) GBL boost aided by laser relay satellite. Several new subroutines were constructed for SORT to input engine performance (as a function of Mach number and altitude), vehicle aerodynamics, guidance algorithms, and mass history. A new guidance/steering option required the lightcraft to always point at the GBL or laser relay satellite. SORT iterates on trajectory parameters to optimize vehicle performance, achieve a desired criteria, or constrain the solution to avoid some specific limit. The predicted laser-boost performance for the LTD is undoubtedly revolutionary, and SORT simulations have helped to define this new frontier. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.

author list (cited authors)

  • Richard, J. C., Morales, C., Smith, W. L., & Myrabo, L. N.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006 11:11 AM

publisher

  • AIP  Publisher