Developing Laser-Propelled Spacecraft for Interstellar Travel

The Starlight Program

The Starlight program as known as DEEP-IN (Directed Energy Propulsion for Interstellar Exploration) and DEIS (Directed Energy Interstellar Studies) is a NASA program to use large scale directed energy to propel small spacecraft to relativistic speeds to enable humanity’s first interstellar missions. This program was started in 2009 with initial funding from UC Santa Barbara and the NASA Spacegrant Consortium with funding from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program from a 2014 proposal. NIAC Phase I funding began in April 2015 with Phase II funding started in May 2016. – Starlight Program Page

Beginning in January 2017, I will be furthering the development of a laser propelled sail for an interstellar spacecraft that can maintain stability during acceleration while minimizing mass and maximizing reflectivity.

Origami Sail Making

Since these sails could be scaled up to accommodate more propulsion and larger payloads, transporting them to orbit where they could be accelerated to the stars would require stowing them to small compact sizes. And for that, an origami solution would likely be advantageous.

Mapping the Stars: How to Get to Alpha Centauri in Twenty Years


December 3rd, 2017

An inflatable prototype whose thin reflective membranes that could serve as a light sail under sufficiently low power laser illumination.