Photonic Laser Thruster

Photonic Laser Thruster


Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) utilizes light quanta, photons, as rocket fuel in an energy efficient manner.  PLT amplifies radiation pressure by trapping photons in a recycling laser beam between the mirrors on the laser powering station and the mirror on spacecraft.   The amplified radiation pressure enables PLT with the propulsion capabilities well beyond the reach of the traditional thrusters, such as chemical, electric and nuclear thrusters.  Thus, PLT promises to revolutionize space endeavors from satellite maneuver to human space travel.


Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) was first time demonstrated to propel a Cubesat with a thrust of 3.5 mN (4.5x Speed).

Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) stops and propels back an approaching spacecraft (a CubeSat) for feasibility demonstration of spacecraft maneuvering and the Photonic Railway (4x Speed).




Two scaled-up Photonic Laser Thrusters can form a space transportation infrastructure, the Photonic Railway, for commuting between planets, moons and asteroids in the solar system.  In the Photonic Railway, the laser beams form a virtual rail, and propel and slow down the Space-Train equipped with a mirror.  Advantages of the Photonic Railway include the unprecedently high flight speed (up to 2000 km/s), no-need to carry large amount of fuel, highly reusable Space-Trains, and high frequency (up to 1000 timer per year) launching and landing of Space-Trains resulting in ultra-large total payload mass capacity.

PLT Propellant-free Formation Flying

PLT enables km-sized precision satellite formation for virtual telescopes:

  • Precision formation flying of multiple satellites
  • Our-of-plane formations

PLT Spacecraft maneuvering

PLT delivers highly controlled thrust for:

  • Stationkeeping
  • Orbit changing
  • Repetitive rendezvous and docking