New laser engine will take people to Mars in 45 days

(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers have developed the concept of a spacecraft that moves using the energy of a laser located on Earth. It can be incredibly effective.

Such a laser engine will make it possible to deliver a payload weighing up to a ton to Mars orbit in just 45 days. True, scientists have not yet figured out how to slow down the device.

In 2018, NASA challenged engineers to develop a concept for a mission to Mars that would deliver a payload of at least 1,000 kilograms in no more than 45 days, and open up the possibility of flights to the far reaches of the solar system and beyond.

Short delivery times are due to the desire to deliver cargo and, someday, astronauts to Mars, minimizing their exposure to galactic cosmic rays and solar storms.

Today it is possible to fly to Mars on a rocket with chemical propulsion, according to calculations, in 6 months. A new concept, called a laser-thermal engine, will reduce this period by 4 times.

The principle of operation of the engine is based on an array of infrared lasers with a diameter of 10 meters located on Earth. They combine many infrared rays, each with a wavelength of about one micron, to generate a total of 100 megawatts of power (the equivalent of 80,000 homes).

A spacecraft orbiting in an elliptical medium earth orbit will have a reflector that directs a laser beam coming from Earth into a heating chamber containing hydrogen plasma.

When the chamber is heated to 40,000 degrees, hydrogen gas will have a temperature of 10,000 and will be ejected from the nozzle. Thus, it will create thrust to exit the Earth’s gravitational field in 58 minutes.

When the laser turns off, the payload will pick up speeds of nearly 17 kilometers per second relative to Earth—enough to reach the Moon in just eight hours.

When the device reaches the atmosphere of Mars in a month and a half, it will still be moving at a speed of 16 km / s. However, braking and landing the vehicle can be a challenge for the colonists.

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