Laser Thruster Propels Simulated Spacecraft

A test has been conducted proving that lasers can be used to provide thrust to future spacecraft. In the future application of the photonic laser thruster system could get us to the moon in hours or Mars in just days. A Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) has successfully accelerated a 450 gram spacecraft simulator with pure laser light for the first time.
Laser power is still a way from being ready for any kind of planetary exploration, but this first test confirms that it works. The project conducted by the Y.K. Bae Corporation and was funded by a Phase II grant of NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC), which funds the most promising ideas for the next generation space missions.
Conducted in a Class 1,000 cleanroom, Y.K. Bae’s demonstration amplified photon power 400-times to achieve photon thrust up to 1.1 milliNewtons by bouncing photons several hundred times between two laser mirrors. The amplified thrust successfully propelled a gliding platform along a two meter frictionless air track, simulating zero-gravity.
‘Moving a 450 gram platform unequivocally validates the useful power-to-thrust ratio of PLT," said Dr. Claude Phipps, Chair of International High Power Laser Ablation and Directed Energy Symposium. "I can see future development that includes optical cavities that span many kilometers achieved with precise mirror alignment to enable maneuvering spacecraft many kilometers apart, and propellant-free propulsion of satellites in formations.’