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  • Photonic Laser Thruster Garners More NASA Funding
Oct 2013
TUSTIN, Calif., Oct. 8. 2013 — Y.K. Bae Corp. has been awarded $500,000 from NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Phase II program to further develop its photon-based space propulsion technology, the company announced Monday.

The two-year research-and-development phase will result in a scaled-up laboratory demonstration of photonic laser thruster (PLT) propulsion with space-qualified lasers in a vacuum environment, Bae said. The NIAC award, effective Oct. 1, is intended to promote visionary technology concepts with the best potential to enable our understanding and future exploration of the cosmos.

PLT uses noncontacting interbody thrust exchange to enable propellantless spacecraft maneuvers and to maintain precise vehicle positioning in space. It was developed and patented in 2007 by Dr. Young K. Bae, who has pursued advanced propulsion concepts such as antimatter and fusion propulsion for more than 25 years at SRI International, and at the Brookhaven National and Air Force Research laboratories after obtaining a Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley.

Traditional all-in-one space vehicles require expensive components, such as fuel and main power supplies. But because PLT is a lower-cost, replaceable resource vehicle, it could be cheaper and extend future space missions indefinitely, the company said. Other benefits include no environmental contamination or safety risks to personnel during thruster firing.

Such propellantless thrust beaming via recirculating photons between space vehicles has come to be viewed by space researchers as particularly appropriate for cost-effective multivehicle — or formation flying — applications, the company said.

Bae currently is exploring funding sources, collaboration and partnerships for the development and launch of a satellite mission to prove PLT in space.

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