CO2 Laser Beam Propels Miniature Rocket
The Advanced Space Transportation Program has launched a miniature rocket propelled by a ground-based laser beam.
Scientists at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico aimed a 10-kW pulsed CO2 laser at the launch vehicle, raising it seven feet off the ground. A reflector in the rear of the miniature craft concentrated the laser beam, heating the air under it. The heated air then blasted out of a nozzle, propelling the craft. The test was the first of its kind in free flight. Previous tests were conducted with the rocket suspended from a wire.
The program is a partnership between the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. In future tests, scientists plan to equip the rocket with a more sophisticated guidance system.
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