TARGET 060628

Riding into Space on a Beam of Light

The shuttlecock
Research scientists have long realized that riding a barely-controlled explosion that causes a huge column of fire is probably not the safest way to get people off the planet.

Therefore, people have been trying other ways and coming up with other ideas for a long time. One recent idea, developed by a researcher named Leik Myrabo, has developed around the fact that an extremely high-energy laser light can vaporize solid steel. So, he has made miniature models of "space capsules" which will ride a beam of laser light. These capsules are flying-saucer shaped, with a tall pointed area on top. In fact, they look very much like large badminton shuttlecocks, but they are about 4 inches tall and 6 to 8 inches in diameter. To show you the relative size, one is pictured here with the inventor's daughter, Tregena Myrabo.
Relative size
The capsule has a block of cast iron on the bottom. A high-energy laser fires at it, vaporizing a minute amount of the iron. It vaporizes with enough force to lift the capsule into the air. Then, a computer guidance system keeps the laser perfectly aimed at the iron block as the capsule rises, rapidly firing and vaporizing more of the iron. The end result is that the capsule rises upwards. Right now, they can make it go to a height of only a few hundred feet, and retrieve the capsule by catching it in a butterfly net. But they hope one day to send a full-sized capsule, capable of carrying humans, far beyond the earth's gravitational pull.

The research facility is located at the HELSTF (High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility), about half way between Alamogordo and Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Feedback Map
The attached movie shows a firing of the missile, and provides you with the sound it makes, how it is launched, and how it is retrieved. To see this exerpt, click here .

To view the whole movie, click here .

For more information about Lightcraft Technologies, their work, and the development of their propulsion unit, click here .

Many thanks to Ed Morgan for providing this target.