Jordin Kare

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Jordin Kare
Dr. Jordin Kare speaking at Worldcon 2005 in Glasgow, UK
BornOctober 24, 1956
DiedJuly 19, 2017(2017-07-19) (aged 60)
Known forResearch on laser propulsion
Scientific career
FieldsAerospace engineering
InstitutionsLawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Kare Technical Consulting

Jordin T. Kare (October 24, 1956 – July 19, 2017) was a physicist and aerospace engineer who researched laser propulsion. He was responsible for Mockingbird,[2] a conceptual design for an extremely small (75 kg dry mass) reusable launch vehicle, and was involved in the Clementine lunar mapping mission.[3][4] Kare also conceived the SailBeam interstellar propulsion technique. In the science fiction fan community, he was a composer, performer and recording artist of filk music.

Early life and education[edit]

Kare grew up in the Philadelphia area and attended Harriton High School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. He received his B.S. in electrical engineering and physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978 and Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1984.[3][5]

Kare was the brother of Susan Kare, designer of the fonts and icons of the original Apple Macintosh user interface.[6][7]


Kare worked for many years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). In 1996, he left LLNL and, after working briefly for a small space-related startup company, in 1997 became an independent consultant specializing in advanced space system design,[5] and started his own company.[6]

Laser propulsion[edit]

He was a leading advocate of laser propulsion for space launch and in-space propulsion. He organized a 1986 workshop on laser propulsion at LLNL and later led a development program for ground to orbit laser launch supported by SDIO. He received a NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts grant to study a near-term form of laser launch using arrays of relatively low-powered lasers.[5][8][9][10] He co-founded LaserMotive, Inc., a laser power beaming entrant in the Elevator:2010 Beam Power Challenge, in 2006,[11] and led the overall system design and the laser transmitter design efforts.


Kare proposed the SailBeam Boosted Magsail in a report prepared for NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts called "High-Acceleration Micro-Scale Laser Sails for Interstellar Propulsion".[12] A key idea is that if vast numbers of tiny sails are used to accelerate rather than one enormous one, the same amount of mass can be brought to high speeds with a less complex optical system. Unlike particle-beam propulsion, in which the beam disperses as it travels, a stream of low-mass microsails is not limited by such diffraction. By using dielectric rather than metal sails, the sails can also be accelerated much closer to their power source. The stream of microsails then becomes a source of propulsion to a starship as particle beams mounted on the starship vaporize the incoming sails into plasma.

Filk music and science fiction[edit]

Kare was also a science fiction fan and filksinger.[13] He was a regular attendee and program participant at science fiction conventions starting in 1975.[1][4] He was an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, an important filksong collection, and later a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings.[1][13][14][15] Kare won two Pegasus Awards for his filk songs, Best Classic Filk Song in 2010 for "Fire in the Sky" and Best Writer/Composer in 2017, as well as seven additional nominations from 1987 onwards.[16]

An astrophysicist character with his name appears in War of Honor and Torch of Freedom, military science fiction novels in the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. A physicist by his name (and his wife, Mary Kay) appear in Callahan's Touch by Spider Robinson, where he shoots a cluricaune with a fire extinguisher. His song "Fire in the Sky" is featured in the novel Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Michael Flynn.


In June 2017, Kare's wife Mary Kay announced via Twitter that his aortic valve was failing and would be replaced.[17] On July 19, she announced that he had died.[18]



  • Two self-published albums of his songs, Fire in the Sky (1991; distributed by Wail Songs) and Parody Violation: Jordin Kare Straight and Twisted (2000)[1]



  1. ^ a b c d Filk biography in CopperCon 22 Filking News Archived 2003-07-01 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Mockingbird
  3. ^ a b Jordin Kare. "Intersection Science Programme Participants: Jordin Kare". Intersection Science Programme Participants. John Bray. Archived from the original on 2012-02-07. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  4. ^ a b "Capclave 2005: Confirmed Program Participants". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  5. ^ a b c "Space Access Update #93". Space Access Society. 2000-04-13. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  6. ^ a b "The Monell Connection, Winter 2003" (PDF). Monell Chemical Senses Center. 2003. p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  7. ^ Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (2001-02-19). "Interview with Susan Kare". Making the Macintosh. Stanford University. Archived from the original on 2010-03-11. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  8. ^ "Jordin Kare Laser Launch Bibliography". Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  9. ^ Dr. Jordin T. Kare (2004-05-18). "Modular Laser Launch Architecture: Analysis and Beam Module Design. Final Report" (PDF). Kare Technical Consulting. Retrieved 2007-08-12.
  10. ^ "NASA Exploring Laser Beams to Zap Rockets Into Outer Space". Fox News. 2011-01-25.
  11. ^ Jordin Kare Archived 2012-06-29 at the Wayback Machine (bio at Lasermotive site). Retrieved Aug. 3, 2017.
  12. ^ "High-Acceleration Micro-Scale Laser Sails for Interstellar Propulsion"
  13. ^ a b "Jordin Kare". Fan Gallery. SCIFI Inc. August 2014. Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2017-08-03.
  14. ^ "The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction". (2nd ed.). von Off Centaur Publications. May 1981. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
  15. ^ Jordin Kare. "Filk music?". Archived from the original on 2007-07-31. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
  16. ^ "Jordin Kare". Ohio Valley Filk Fest. 2017-10-21. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  17. ^ People have said they didn't see my earlier posts so reposting. Jordin's aortic valve is failing. He is having surgery June 28 to replace..., by Mary Kay Kare, on Twitter; published June 21, 2017; retrieved July 19, 2017
  18. ^ Jordin's heart stopped is pm & could not be restarted. He's gone. I am having him cremated here & will take him home asap., by Mary Kay Kare; published July 19, 2017; retrieved July 19, 2017
  19. ^ Hertz Foundation. "Hertz Foundation Fellows". Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  20. ^ a b c "Pegasus Awards - Jordin Kare".

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