I couldn’t find Pournelle’s past articles concerning launching lasers, but I did come up with a few links.
This concept has a long and distinguished history. It might actually come to fruition.
Politics and money though. Politics and money.
From Daily Tech:
Last December, Dr. Young Bae unveiled a unique invention: the Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) with an amplification factor of 3,000 in December, 2006. The engine promised to provide a novel new means of transportation in space.
Word spread fast and before long Dr. Bae had visitors from some of aerospace’s strongest organizations–NASA JPL, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory) –among others.
Dr. Franklin Mead, Senior Aerospace Engineer, and leading rocket scientist in laser and advanced propulsion at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) was quoted in Bae Institute press release as stating, “I attended Dr. Bae’s presentation about his PLT demonstration and measurement of photon thrust here at AFRL. It was pretty incredible stuff and to my knowledge, I don’t think anyone has done this before. It has generated a lot of interest around here.”
In the past, photons thrusters have been relegated to science fiction as they were considered too unpractical for modern space flight. While such a device would have the advantage of nearly constant thrust, unlike a fuel rocket, photons have no mass so it could take years to equal the speed of traditional propulsion techniques.
I used to read about photon drives when I was a kid with my nose stuck into sci-fi magazines many, many moons ago. It seemed like a simple thing to invent. But I guess certain ideas are easier in theory than in engineering reality.
More often than not it’s money and politics. *sigh*