Advanced Space Propulsion Study - Antiproton and Beamed Power Propulsion

AFAL TR-87-070

R. L. Forward


The objective of this contract was to monitor the research at the forefront of physics and engineering in order to discover new technology and scientific phenomena that might have application to spacecraft propulsion; and based on these latest developments, to propose new spacecraft propulsion concepts. The effort was to include an emphasis on the study of antiproton annihilation propulsion and to present approaches for promoting the scientific and technology issues of this concept.

During the contract a series of separate studies on possible advanced space propulsion concepts were carried out. Some of these studies were successful in adding to the knowledge about present propulsion concepts or in inventing new space propulsion concepts. Other studies were unproductive and were dropped. The successful studies resulted in a number of written reports and briefings, as well as five papers prepared for presentation and publication in the proceedings of meetings or in scientific journals.

The first paper (reprinted in Appendix A), Beamed Power Propulsion to the Stars," was presented at the AAAS Symposium on Interstellar Communication and Travel at the AAAS Annual Meeting, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (25-30 May 1988). The paper will be published in a forthcoming AAAS Symposium Proceedings. In the paper I discuss three different beamed power propulsion systems capable of achieving the very difficult advanced space propulsion mission of sending payloads over interstellar distances. The three systems are pellet-stream~pushed, microwave-beam-pushed, and laser-beam-pushed. The presentation also resulted in a large number of newspaper feature articles, and radio and television interviews that brought the subject of advanced propulsion to the attention of the general public.

The second paper (reprinted in Appendix B), "Laser Weapon Target Practice with Gee-Whiz Targets," was contributed to the Laser Propulsion Workshop held at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California (7-18 July 1986). The paper will appear in a forthcoming workshop proceedings. In the paper I discuss a new concept for a very high performance laser-pushed lightsail that uses near-term high power laser systems to boost very light payloads to terminal velocities approaching 0.01 c.

The third paper (reprinted in Appendix C), "Exotic Propulsion in the 21st Century," was an invited keynote paper at the 21st Century Space Propulsion session of the American Astronautical Society 33rd Annual Meeting held in Boulder, Colorado (26-29 October 1986). This paper is available as AAS Preprint 88-409 In the paper I review laser thermal propulsion, tether transportation systems, antiproton annihilation propulsion, exotic missions using solar sails, and laser-pushed lightsails for interstellar transport.

The fourth paper (reprinted in Appendix D) , "Prospects for Antiproton Production and Propulsion," was an invited keynote paper at the Cooling, Condensation, and Storage of Hydrogen Cluster Ions Workshop held at SRI International, Menlo Park, California (8-9 January 1987). The paper will appear in the workshop proceedings. In the paper I review the past history of antiproton annihilation propulsion for the workshop attendees and point out the critical areas of antihydrogen storage technology they needed to address in their workshop

The fifth paper (reprinted in Appendix E), "Production of Heavy Antinuclei: Review of Experimental Results," dated 23 April 1987, was prepared as a result of a question raised at the Hydrogen Cluster Ions Workshop concerning the possible availability to cluster ion researchers of heavier antimatter ions than antiproton ions, for possible use in nucleating or stabilizing antihydrogen ion clusters. In the paper I survey the past literature on the production of heavier antimatter ions and predict that small amounts of antideuterium, antitritium, and antihelium-3 ions might be available using present antiproton production facilities. Heavier, ions like antihelium-4 and antilithium will probably require the construction of special facilities to fabricate the heavier ions from fusion of antideuterium and antitritium. The paper will appear in the proceedings of both the Cooling, Condensation, and Storage of Hydrogen Cluster Ions Workshop held at SRI International, Menlo Park, California (8-9 January 1987), and the Antiproton Science and Technology Workshop held at RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California (21-22 April 1987).

In order to promote the science and technology of antiproton annihilation propulsion, seven issues of an informative newsletter on antimatter science and technology, called the Mirror Matter Newsletter, were prepared and distributed to over 500 scientists and engineers. The news portions of the Mirror Matter Newsletter are included as Appendix F.

The Mirror Matter Newsletter also contained updated to a previously compiled and published bibliography on antimatter science and technology. The complete bibliography including the past entries and the update entries from the Mirror Matter Newsletter were combined into a single annotated bibliography, which is included as Appendix G.


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