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High-Speed Moon Penetrator Tested

Meant to deliver sensors meters below the moon's surface, penetrator and payload survive 1100-kph crash

2 min read

13 June 2008—A consortium of British researchers recently tested a high-speed penetrator—a vehicle meant to deliver sensors and scientific instruments deep below the surface of other planets. The penetrator and all of its instruments survived a 1100-kilometer-per-hour rocket-sledge ride and impact with a sand pile. Accelerometers in the penetrator recorded a deceleration force 20 000 times that of normal gravity, reports Alan Smith, director of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, at University College London. Humans can survive less than a thousandth of that force.

The vehicle’s first use would be as part of the UK’s proposed MoonLITE mission to the moon, scheduled for launch in 2013 (LITE is short for Lightweight Interior and Telecoms Experiment). It demonstrates a technique that could lower the cost of space exploration by eliminating the need to drill into the moon’s surface.

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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