Power-Beaming Concepts for Future Deep Space Exploration
G. Benford; J. Benford (2006), JBIS, 59, 104-107
Keywords: Sails, solar sails, power beaming, microwave propulsion, intestellar mission, thermal desorption
We explore uses of thermal desorption of materials from prepared LEO sails, which can give additional propulsion when struck by intense microwave beams from the ground. Beam heating of a sail until its surface coat sublimes or desorps can add far more thrust, roughly a factor of 1000. Beamed power from Earth can heat sails to temperatures >1000 K, both to drive them to high velocities and to simulate similar conditions for very near-Sun missions. This approach promises to make microwave- riding sails greatly superior to both solar sails and laser-driven sails, because it uses the best features of both, in a wavelength region of maximum utility. A natural collaboration emerges between subliming and/or desorping sails driven by microwave beams in LEO, becoming high velocity solar sails for the long mission. Resonant boosting from repeated shots can liberate sails in weeks into interplanetary space. Spinning sails by using polarized beams can deploy sails. A Mars Fast Track mission to speeds ~50 km/sec may be possible with an enhanced Deep Space Network. With this array one could test near-sun conditions for desorption in a Sun-Diver mission, enabling high-speed near-interstellar voyages.