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65 votes

Is pinging the Moon with a laser as shown on "The Big Bang Theory" possible?

There is a very nice Myth Busters video about bouncing a laser off the Moon linked below. To answer your question, current work is done with an array of corner cube reflectors on the Moon roughly 50 ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
36 votes

Is pinging the Moon with a laser as shown on "The Big Bang Theory" possible?

The University of Texas's McDonald Observatory performs laser measurements of the distance to the Moon using retroreflectors left by the Apollo astronauts. You can read all about it in the McDonald ...
Organic Marble's user avatar
30 votes
Accepted

Why don't lasers last long in space?

The paper "Laser Technology in Photonic Applications for Space" by Denis Guilhot and Pol Ribes-Pleguezuelo highlights some of the problems of lasers in space: In the specific case of laser ...
KarlKastor's user avatar
  • 2,163
28 votes

Could we use a narrow paradigm, say laser, to get info faster from New Horizons? (With a moon base.)

It absolutely could happen, but it would require a more precise pointing than New Horizons has. Lasers of some kind are the best for the high data resolution. The spacecraft to most heavily use lasers ...
PearsonArtPhoto's user avatar
  • 121k
22 votes

How do the interferometers on the drag-free satellite LISA receive power without altering their geodesic trajectory?

Nothing is mounted on the proof mass. The proof mass is unpowered, ideally touches nothing, and is designed to be as featureless as possible. The ones used in Gravity Probe B are the most perfectly ...
Ryan C's user avatar
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18 votes

Could we use a narrow paradigm, say laser, to get info faster from New Horizons? (With a moon base.)

Let's try and do some numbers. We will need to make a few assumptions.I'm going to choose ones which make the calculations easy, varying might produce variation of a factor of 10 or 100 in the answer. ...
Steve Linton's user avatar
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16 votes

How do the interferometers on the drag-free satellite LISA receive power without altering their geodesic trajectory?

The interferometers themselves must be "surrogate test masses"... LISA will require its surrogate test masses (interferometers) to be active components requiring power. I can't find any ...
Starfish Prime's user avatar
12 votes

Are we actually that close to techniques of accelerating probes to speeds like a quarter $c$?

Given that the interstellar medium (ISM) has a density of about 1 atom per cubic centimeter and given that laser propulsion could, in theory, accelerate a spacecraft to 30% of the speed of light in ...
called2voyage's user avatar
  • 23.7k
9 votes

Is it possible to extend high speed data transmission with lasers to the distance Earth to Mars?

No, you don't need "at least some photons per data bit". 13 bits per photon has been demonstrated with laser communications. You calculate the data rate capability the same way you do with any other ...
Mark Adler's user avatar
  • 58.2k
8 votes

How would a laser "shoot down" space junk?

Here is a pdf studying techniques of laser debris removal. Summary: 1) Non-ablation laser debris removal (by light pressure and termal radiation) is ineffective. Only impulse laser ablation is ...
Heopps's user avatar
  • 9,071
8 votes
Accepted

What are these structures on the Lunar Ranging Retro Reflector (LRRR) arrays for?

The Apollo 11 EASEP handbook gives basic information on the first version. Of the LRRR, it has just two pages of text... There are some (poorly reproduced) images labelling the main parts. It's ...
Andy's user avatar
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8 votes
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Do the latest Starlink satellites use inter-satellite laser communications?

All I could find was here which led to a variety of articles which explain the technology in depth. Not that Wikipedia is always reliable, however it stated that: The satellites will employ optical ...
Magic Octopus Urn's user avatar
7 votes

Achieving relativistic speeds with the use of lasers

For propulsion you have to think momentum rather than energy. In this case almost all of the optical energy output of the laser remains in the emitted photons. Whomever is unlucky enough to find ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
7 votes

Could we use a narrow paradigm, say laser, to get info faster from New Horizons? (With a moon base.)

Steve Linton's answer is excellent, although possibly a bit conservative. Information has been transmitted in the lab via laser at a rate of 1 bit per photon. For proposed uses, Error Detection and ...
WhatRoughBeast's user avatar
6 votes
Accepted

Are we actually that close to techniques of accelerating probes to speeds like a quarter $c$?

The solar sail idea just works, tested and true. Very powerful lasers are a reality. Very accurate, narrow-beam lasers are a reality too. Bringing these two together is absolutely doable. Powering ...
SF.'s user avatar
  • 55k
6 votes

A laser can propel a spacecraft to 20% of light speed, time shorter on spacecraft?

If it took 10 years from our point of view, it would take 9.8 years from the point of view of the spacecraft travelling at 20% of the speed of light. So a little shorter, but not by much. A bigger ...
Jack B's user avatar
  • 583
6 votes
Accepted

Attitude requirements for inter-satellite laser communication

The linked image is a 125mm telescope in a coarse-pointing hemispherical (two axis) mount. It has a field of view of about 2.5mrad in acquisition mode, which drops to 0.5mrad for data transfer. It’s ...
Bob Jacobsen's user avatar
  • 12.7k
6 votes

Could we use a narrow paradigm, say laser, to get info faster from New Horizons? (With a moon base.)

This is closely related to the concept of Antenna gain, which for radio transmission measures how narrow a beam the antenna can focus. The narrower the beam, the more accurately you need to point it. ...
jpa's user avatar
  • 1,912
6 votes

Precise Orbit Determination (POD) vs GNSS accuracy; seeking references

The JPL DESCANO book series is the absolute reference in precise orbit determination. It's free, and divided into separate chapters. It includes all of the calculations needed to understand and solve ...
ChrisR's user avatar
  • 6,220
6 votes
Accepted

Has anyone in space beyond LEO seen or has anything photographed a non-pointer laser from Earth?

Check out Surveyor 7. "Laser beams from Earth are successfully detected by the craft's television camera in a special test of laser-pointing techniques." See also: https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa....
Bob Werner's user avatar
  • 1,124
5 votes

How would a laser "shoot down" space junk?

The cannon will follow a process known as "laser ablation" to shoot down space debris. Energy from the cannon will heat space junk with a beam, which will then vaporize it. As a result, the space junk ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
5 votes
Accepted

Can a laser be used to clear the launch path of a rocket?

Well, for a laser to help in this situation, you'd need to vaporize the debris. That means heating the entire piece to its evaporation temperature. This needs either a very powerful laser, or enough ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
5 votes

Would an incandescent light bulb be more efficient than a laser for photon propulsion?

It would have more TWR, the same efficiency, but the matter is almost irrelevant anyway. (If you're trying to build a weapon, not a thruster, the laser is better because it is collimated in a narrow ...
ikrase's user avatar
  • 8,874
5 votes
Accepted

How did LADEE and LDRC measure it's distance from Lunar orbit to Earth to 1 centimeter accuracy using optical communications?

In case of optical communication we don't deal with electromagnetic waves that are collected in an antenna at a ridiculously low power level, are amplified by many orders of magnitude and then need to ...
asdfex's user avatar
  • 15k
5 votes
Accepted

Did Perseverance get an experimental optical communications terminal?

It looks like the answer is probably no. The paper from the 2015 talk seems to refer to this as "a recent NASA JPL study", and notes that it would need a similar terminal on an orbiter. It ...
Andrew is gone's user avatar
5 votes
Accepted

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) - from what distance could a flashlight be detected by a space-based telescope

Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) - from what distance a flashlight1 can be detected2 by a space-based telescope3 1or a 1 W laser, on a really small probes (less than 1kg) 2data received from ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 149k
4 votes
Accepted

How accurate can near earth asteroids be tracked?

Arecibo can measure speeds with an accuracy on the order of 1% in scanning mode (i.e. just observing asteroids as they pass through the field of view). Distances can be measured to 10-8 (10 ppb), I ...
Hobbes's user avatar
  • 128k
4 votes
Accepted

Would laser and beamed energy anti satellite weapons cause much space debris?

This would still cause debris, either immediately or eventually. Technically, an unresponsive satellite is 1 piece of space debris. But the real question is lots of small pieces.... Overheating ...
DuffBeerBaron's user avatar
4 votes

Is it possible to extend high speed data transmission with lasers to the distance Earth to Mars?

It's generally true that the error rate in communication is proportional to the energy per bit. Rigorously you can see this through things like $E_b/N_0$ and the Shannon Hartley theorem. To compensate ...
Phil Frost's user avatar
  • 1,033
4 votes

Could a laser ablation-based propulsion system really accelerate an object to 0.001 c?

This should be useful to you. Take especial note of the method of bombarding afoil with a femotsecond pulse beam to emit relativistic ions. Granted, not sure if that would work with beam propulsion ...
Alec Medén's user avatar

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