Leik N. Myrabo received his B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from Iowa State University in 1968, and attained his Ph.D. in Engineering Physics from the University of California at San Diego in 1976. Thereafter, he spent a total of seven years at Physical Sciences, Inc., W.J. Schafer Associates, and the BDM Corporation, pursuing “Star Wars” research as a staff scientist and consultant on directed energy applications, aerospace systems, space prime power, and advanced propulsion. He joined the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute faculty in 1983.
For the past three decades, Myrabo’s burning desire has been to create and demonstrate viable concepts for non-chemical propulsion of future flight vehicles for an era beyond oil.
Research Interests and Activities: Advanced space propulsion & power, aerospace systems, directed energy, hypersonic gas dynamics, energy conversion, space technology, alternative energy. Myrabo’s experimental and theoretical studies are focused on alternative (non-chemical) energy sources for aeronautical, aerospace, and space flight propulsion of the 21st century and beyond. This advanced energetics research takes a long term, high risk approach to identifying areas of potential technological breakthroughs. His primary research emphasis is on the application of Beamed Energy Propulsion (BEP) with laser, microwave, or millimeter wave sources, in developing future air-breathing and rocket shuttlecraft for a variety of hypersonic boost-glide, space launch, and orbit-raising missions.
These revolutionary beam-powered vehicles leave their propulsive energy sources on the ground or in space, and carry minimal on-board reaction mass and/or expendable coolant. Among other promising engine cycles (i.e., BEP-compatible), he is investigating pulsed detonation thrusters, magneto-hydrodynamic slipstream accelerators, Directed-Energy AirSpikes (DEAS), various rocket-based combined cycles, rotary pulsejets, scramjets, and a unique variety of air-breathing “ion-breeze” thruster.
Dr. Myrabo’s research relies on a combined experimental/ theoretical/ numerical investigative approach. His current MURI project investigates the propulsion physics of high power laser-beam launched nanosatellites (i.e., 1 to 10 kg) for affordable, rapid access to space. Myrabo has authored and co-authored more than 210 journal, symposium, and conference articles, and one book.