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


  • 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.

name of conference

  • BEAMED ENERGY PROPULSION: Fourth International Symposium on Beamed Energy Propulsion

published proceedings

  • AIP Conference Proceedings

author list (cited authors)

  • Richard, J. C.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006 11:11 AM


  • AIP  Publisher