EECS Colloquium: Enabling the First Interstellar Missions with Integrated Photonics and Electronics

Philip Lubin, University of California, Santa Barbara


4:00pm - 5:00pm

Location: 306 (HP Auditorium), Soda Hall

Humanity has long dreamed of exploring new worlds far outside our solar system. With more than 3600 exo-planets discovered the number of planets per star appears to be about unity. The implications of this are profound. One of the implications is the desire to visit some of these exo-planets. However, our current propulsion systems are not capable of exploring our stellar neighbors. Barring new physics we are left with few solutions. One of the solutions is using directed energy driven probes to achieve relativistic speed. This is enabled by the combination of the revolution in integrated photonics and electronics. We will discuss the current status of our Phase II NASA program, combining large aperture laser phased arrays in a Master Oscillator Power Amplifier architecture with wafer scale spacecraft to enable such missions and the challenges ahead as well as the transformative implications and many applications of this program. Some of these challenges include the large scale phased photonics structures needed to drive macroscopic spacecraft to near light speed, the need for autonomous wafer scale spacecraft, power during the cruise phase, radiation and dust grain impacts in the interstellar medium and the ability to communicate the data back to the Earth from lightyear distances. For more information see “A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight”
Philip Lubin is a professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara whose primary research has been focused on studies of the early universe in the millimeter wavelengths bands as well as applications of directed energy for planetary defense and relativistic propulsion. His group has designed, developed and fielded more than two dozen ground based and balloon borne missions and helped develop two major cosmology satellites. Among other accomplishments his group first detected the horizon scale fluctuations in the Cosmic Microwave Background from both their South Pole and balloon borne systems twenty years ago and their latest results, along with an international teams of ESA and NASA researchers, are from the Planck cosmology mission which have mapped in exquisite detail the structures of the early universe. He is a co-I on the Planck mission. His group has worked on applications of directed energy systems for both small scale single launcher solutions as well as large standoff systems for planetary defense and on applications to allow small interstellar probes. He is co-recipient of the 2006 Gruber Prize in Cosmology along with the COBE science team for their groundbreaking work in cosmology. He has published more than 400 papers.

  • Sponsor:

    Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS)
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