Status Report

The Breakthrough Starshot System Model

By SpaceRef Editor
May 3, 2018
Filed under ,

Kevin L. G. Parkin
(Submitted on 24 Apr 2018)

Breakthrough Starshot is an initiative to prove ultra-fast light-driven nanocrafts, and lay the foundations for a first launch to Alpha Centauri within the next generation. Along the way, the project could generate important supplementary benefits to solar system exploration. A number of hard engineering challenges remain to be solved before these missions can become a reality.

A system model has been formulated as part of the Starshot systems engineering work. This paper presents the model and describes how it computes cost-optimal point designs. Using the model, three scenarios are examined: A 0.2c mission to Alpha Centauri, a 0.01c solar system precursor mission, and a ground-based test facility based on a vacuum tunnel. All assume that the photon pressure from a 1.06 ␣m wavelength beam accelerates a circular dielectric sail. The 0.2c point design assumes $0.01/W lasers, $500/m2 optics, and $50/kWh energy storage to achieve $8.3B capital cost for the ground-based beam director. In contrast, the energy needed to accelerate each sail costs $7M. Beam director capital cost is minimized by a 4.2 m diameter sail that is accelerated for 10 min. The 0.01 c point design assumes $1/W lasers, $10k/m2 optics, and $100/kWh energy storage to achieve $517M capital cost for the beam director and $8k energy cost to accelerate each 19 cm diameter sail. The ground-based test facility assumes $100/W lasers, $1M/m2 optics, $500/kWh energy storage, and $10k/m vacuum tunnel. To reach 20kms−1, fast enough to escape the solar system from Earth, takes 0.3 km of vacuum tunnel, 16 kW of lasers, and a 0.9 m diameter telescope, all of which costs $6M.

The system model predicts that, ultimately, Starshot scales to cruise velocities of greater than 0.9 c.

Subjects:    Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)
Cite as:    arXiv:1805.01306 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:1805.01306v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
Submission history
From: Kevin Parkin 
[v1] Tue, 24 Apr 2018 23:36:45 GMT (1994kb,D)

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