IEEE Photonics Society

Boston Photonics Society Chapter

Boston Chapter of the IEEE Photonics Society

Applications of Optics and Photonics in Space PDF

Wednesday, April 3, 10, 17, 24, May 1, 2019, 7:00–9:30 PM
Located at MIT Lincoln Laboratory – 3 Forbes Road, Lexington, MA, 02420, USA

May 1, 2019
8:15 PM

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Radioisotope Positron Propulsion for Astronomy at the Solar Gravitational Lens Slides

Dr. Ryan Weed, Positron Dynamics, Livermore, CA


Dr. Ryan Weed, Positron Dynamics, Livermore, CA

Abstract:  The use of the sun as a lens would allow for unprecedented magnification of distant bodies, including the surface of exoplanets. The minimum distance for solar gravitational lensing is 550AU, a distance requiring a very high specific impulse propulsion system for placement of an optical telescope within a reasonable timescale. Current state of the art in-space propulsion systems, based on chemical or ion propellants, fail to meet these requirements of a solar lens mission. Antimatter propulsion has been identified as a candidate mechanism that could satisfy the high delta-V and high specific impulse demands of this mission, providing quicker scientific results, and increasing the payload mass to allow more capable instruments.

The idea of using antimatter as a propulsion fuel for spacecraft was proposed by Eugene Sanger in the 1950’s.  Early concepts did not completely consider the technological and financial hurdles required to produce and store massive amounts of antimatter, nor the challenge of directing the energy produced in annihilation of antimatter and matter. These significant technical barriers have kept the cost of usable antimatter well outside the realm of propulsion applications, but progress has been made in recent years.  A radioisotope-based antimatter propulsion system is proposed, capable of delivering an optical instrument to the solar gravitational lens, focusing on estimates of transit time and payload capability.  


Biography:  Dr. Ryan Weed is a physicist and USAF Test Pilot dedicated to demonstrating and advancing antimatter propulsion methods. As founder of Positron Dynamics, Dr. Weed authored several patents related to positron production, cooling and applications in non-destructive testing and in-space propulsion. Initially funded by a Thiel Foundation grant, Dr. Weed has been selected as a WIRED Magazine Innovation Fellow, NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Fellow, and recently led the Positron Dynamics team in the first measurement of fusion events from positron annihilation. Dr. Weed's experience in aerospace include designing a cryogenic instrumentation laboratory at Blue Origin, and 5 years working with an international group of scientists and engineers on the Google Lunar X-prize, winning a NASA Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data (ILDD) contract


For more information on the technical content of the workshop, contact either:
1) Farhad Hakimi, (, Chair
2) Bill Nelson, (, Co-Chair
3) Dean Tsang, (, Co-Chair