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19 September 2016 Building the future of WaferSat spacecraft for relativistic spacecraft
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Abstract
Recently, there has been a dramatic change in the way space missions are viewed. Large spacecraft with massive propellant-filled launch stages have dominated the space industry since the 1960’s, but low-mass CubeSats and low-cost rockets have enabled a new approach to space exploration. In recent work, we have built upon the idea of extremely low mass (sub 1 kg), propellant-less spacecraft that are accelerated by photon propulsion from dedicated directed-energy facilities. Advanced photonics on a chip with hybridized electronics can be used to implement a laser-based communication system on board a sub 1U spacecraft that we call a WaferSat. WaferSat spacecraft are equipped with reflective sails suitable for propulsion by directed-energy beams. This low-mass spacecraft design does not require onboard propellant, creating significant new opportunities for deep space exploration at a very low cost. In this paper, we describe the design of a prototype WaferSat spacecraft, constructed on a printed circuit board. The prototype is envisioned as a step toward a design that could be launched on an early mission into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), as a key milestone in the roadmap to interstellar flight. In addition to laser communication, the WaferSat prototype includes subsystems for power source, attitude control, digital image acquisition, and inter-system communications.
© (2016) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Travis Brashears, Philip Lubin, Nic Rupert, Eric Stanton, Amal Mehta, Patrick Knowles, and Gary B. Hughes "Building the future of WaferSat spacecraft for relativistic spacecraft", Proc. SPIE 9981, Planetary Defense and Space Environment Applications, 998104 (19 September 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2238471
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