Professor Leik Myrabo

Professor Leik Myrabo

Chairman & CTO, Lightcraft Technologies, Inc.

Dr. Leik Myrabo served as an Associate Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for 27 years, before leaving in August 2010 to pursue his company interests full time: Lightcraft Technologies, Inc. Prior to joining the RPI faculty in 1983, he spent seven years working on Star Wars directed-energy research. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Physics at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) in 1976.

During a 3-year sabbatical from July 1996 to Sept. 1999, he worked with Dr. Franklin Mead at the Rocket Lab (AFRL, Edwards, AFB) to take laser propulsion from the raw concept stage into flight reality—ultimately demonstrating his laser lightcraft vehicle in flight to 30.5 meters, using the 10 kW PLVTS laser at the White Sands Missile Range, funded under joint USAF/ NASA sponsorship. Beginning with the first laser lightcraft engine test in July 1996, a total of twenty-four test campaigns (3-5 days each) were carried out. Subsequently, his company—Lightcraft Technologies—set a new World Altitude Record of 71 meters at WSMR on 2 October 2000 (still unchallenged today), sponsored under a grant from a non-profit organization. On 2 Dec. 2002, Myrabo was awarded U.S. Patent #6488233, entitled “Laser Propelled Vehicle”— as the sole inventor. 

In December 1999, he demonstrated the first successful vacuum photonic thrust measurements for a laser lightsail, testing prototype 5 cm diameter carbon micro-truss materials, suspended as a pendulum with magnetic bearings. These experiments employed the LHMEL II CW CO2 laser (inside a 7-ft by 9-ft vacuum tank) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH. In Dec. 2000, he returned to this LHMEL II facility to carry out vertical wire-guided flights of more advanced laser sails. 

Over the past four decades, Dr. Myrabo has been developing and testing a wide variety of prototype beamed energy propulsion engines and vehicles—designed for both laser and mm-wave regimes. His experimental research was performed on multiple high energy laserand mm-wave sources of note, including: Thumper laser (@AERL, Everett, MA), Pharos III laser (@ NRL, Wash., D.C.), PLVTS laser (@ WSMR, NM), LHMMEL II (AFRL @ WPAFB, Dayton, OH), DIII-D gyrotron (@ General Atomics, La Jolla, CA), ADS-System Zero (AFRL @ Kirtland AFB, NM) – in addition to gigawatt pulsed Lumonics TEA 620 lasers (donated to RPI by LLNL) in my Laser Propulsion Lab at RPI, and later linked to IEAv-CTA’s hypersonic shock tunnel (Sao Jose dos Campus, Brazil)—under an AFOSR MURI grant.