100MW Laser

Image credit - CBS (original Star Trek TV series)

Image credit – CBS (original Star Trek TV series)

The Gen1 Enterprise will include a powerful laser mounted in or near the dome located at the bottom center of the saucer hull. The laser light output power goal is 100MW, and this can be sustained for at least one minute. This will be the most powerful laser ever built that can achieve a sustained output.

While the laser output power is 100MW, considerably more electrical power is needed to energize the laser. Assuming the laser conversion efficiency is 10%, 1GWe must be input to the laser to energize it (where GWe stands for Giga Watt electrical power).

The laser will be powered by electricity generated by the main 1.5GWe nuclear reactor. When the laser is on at full power, the main engine must be shut down since there is not enough electrical power generated by the main reactor to power both the laser and the main engine.

The laser will generate a lot of waste heat since the process of converting electrical power into light power is not 100% efficient. The aluminum outer surface covering the hulls of the Enterprise will act as a radiator to radiate heat into space and prevent the ship and the laser itself from overheating while the laser is on.

The laser is experimental and uses for it will be explored as the Gen1 Enterprise missions take shape. New ideas will emerge over time, but here is a starting list of ten potential uses:

  1. Drill a hole through the thick surface ice covering Jupiter’s moon Europa so that a hydrobot (a robotic submarine with sensors and cameras) can descend into the vast ocean beneath the ice.
  2. Help in the digging of the underground cavities needed for constructing the underground bases on the moon and Mars.
  3. Zap and facilitate the disintegration of space debris orbiting earth to reduce the chances of a collision between debris and crafts still in active service. In general, scrub the orbit around earth.
  4. Divert asteroids coming toward earth that pose a threat.
  5. Beam power down to earth to a receiver to emulate how a large-scale, space-based solar power station might send energy back to earth.
  6. After changing the optics to spread the laser beam rays out, the beam can be used as a giant flash bulb for lighting up dark features on planets so a camera can take pictures.
  7. On the 4th of July the Enterprise can fly over the US with its laser energized for shooting streaks of bright light across the night sky – a kind of fireworks from space. Upon request, this could be done over other nations on special occasions too.
  8. Blast away specific surface materials on Mars and Venus so that rovers can examine very old rocks that become exposed. This will help unravel the mysteries of these planets’ ancient pasts. And this will help in the search for evidence of past life such as might be found in ancient fossils.
  9. Provide the power source to a spacecraft powered by a remote high-power laser source.
  10. Zap some nasty aliens – Klingons beware!