Surface material on a remote target can be characterized by using a spectrometer to view a laser-heated spot on the target surface through the plume of ejected material. The concept is described as Remote Laser Evaporative Molecular Absorption (R-LEMA) spectroscopy.1,2 The proposed method is distinct from current stand-off approaches to composition analysis, such as Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), which atomizes and ionizes target material and observes emission spectra to determine bulk atomic composition. Initial simulations of R-LEMA absorption profiles based on theoretical models show great promise for the proposed method. This paper describes an experimental setup being developed to acquire R-LEMA spectra in the laboratory under controlled conditions that will allow comparison to theoretically predicted spectral profiles. A sample is placed in a vacuum space; a laser beam is directed at the sample, through an optical window. As the sample is heated, and evaporation begins, thermal emission from the heated spot passes through the molecular plume, then out of the vacuum space via infrared windows. The thermal emission is directed into a FT-IR spectrometer, which is equipped with a source-brightness comparator to correct for changes in source intensity during a scan. Targets of known composition are tested and laboratory measurements are compared to the theoretically predicted spectra. Laboratory spectra for composite targets are also presented, including terrestrial rocks and asteroid regolith simulant.
Directed energy is envisioned to drive wafer-scale spacecraft to relativistic speeds. Spacecraft propulsion is provided by a large array of lasers, either in Earth orbit or stationed on the ground. The directed-energy beam is focused on the spacecraft sail, and momentum from photons in the laser beam is transferred to the spacecraft as the beam reflects off of the sail. In order for the beam to be concentrated on the spacecraft, precise phase control of all the elements across the laser array will be required. Any phase misalignments within the array will give rise to pointing fluctuations and flux asymmetry in the beam, necessitating creative approaches to spacecraft stability and beam following. In order to simulate spacecraft acceleration using an array of phase-locked lasers, a near field intensity model of the laser array is required. This paper describes a light propagation model that can be used to calculate intensity patterns for the near-field diffraction of a phased array. The model is based on the combination of complex frequencies from an array of emitters as the beams from each emitter strike a target surface. Ray-tracing geometry is used to determine the distance from each point on an emitter optical surface to each point on the target surface, and the distance is used to determine the phase contribution. Simulations are presented that explore the effects of fixed and time-varying phase mis-alignments on beam pointing, beam intensity and focusing characteristics.