Dissertation Defense: Matt Noyes, Orbital and Flight Stability Models for Breakthrough Starshot's AO System

    Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 11:00am

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    Meeting ID: 991 7883 5910


    Title: Orbital and Flight Stability Models for Breakthrough Starshot's AO System


    Breakthrough Starshot is an international research and engineering project to develop a spacecraft system capable of achieving high-speed interstellar travel. This system aims to achieve speeds of up to 20% the speed of light by beaming 100GW of laser power from Earth onto the lightsail of an ultra-lightweight spacecraft (1 gram). At such speeds, a spacecraft could reach our nearest stellar neighbor in only 20 years.

    In order for this laser projector to accelerate the nano-spacecraft, its beam needs to be well aimed and focused onto the lightsail throughout launch. However, the propulsion beam will have to travel through Earth's turbulent and inhomogeneous atmosphere. To assure the laser light effectively transfers its momentum onto the lightsail, the launch projector will need an Adaptive Optics (AO) system to correct for any wavefront distortions/deflections caused by the atmosphere.

    This defense presentation lays out the models created to 1) simulate the performance of Starshot's AO System given a satellite-based laser guide star beacon and 2) identify the propulsion beam aim correction tolerance necessary for stable flight.