Laser propulsion has been developed as a suitable small thruster technology for the attitude control of micro and nano class satellites. Laser-based thrusters meet the satellite design criteria for being of light weight and cost effective, because they do not require fuel storing and oxidizer for combustion. Also, thrust control by laser propulsion is achieved fairly easy. In this paper, we consider the confinement of plasma expansion by a gel-type liquid material, which results in the enhancement of the thrust for propulsion. We also present our attempts to resolve some known issues regarding laser ablation of solid and liquid targets. The level of thrust is quantified via the momentum coupling coefficient, which was experimentally measured using a ballistic pendulum system. We have discovered that the laser ablation confinement by the gel-type medium results in 2.3 times more enhanced driving force as compared to the water confinement. A proof of performance is demonstrated for using gel-type material for generating propulsion, and material characterization for optimal thrust performance is presented.
Applied Physics A: Materials Science Processing – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 10, 2009
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