Stability of a Light Sail Riding on a Laser Beam

Preprint, Article English OPEN
Manchester, Zachary ; Loeb, Abraham (2016)
  • Publisher: American Astronomical Society
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa619b, doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/aa619b.
  • Subject: Physics - Space Physics | Physics - Optics | Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics
    arxiv: Physics::Accelerator Physics | Physics::Popular Physics | Physics::Space Physics | Quantitative Biology::Other

The stability of a light sail riding on a laser beam is analyzed both analytically and numerically. Conical sails on Gaussian beams, which have been studied in the past, are shown to be unstable without active control or additional mechanical modifications. A new architecture for a passively stable sail-and-beam configuration is proposed. The novel spherical shell design for the sail is capable of "beam riding" without the need for active feedback control. Full three-dimensional ray-tracing simulations are performed to verify our analytical results.
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