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Project would measure tech maturity of fusion-based propulsion schemes.
New technologies and the growing number of alien planets being discovered are fueling a new look at a plans for a futuristic interstellar probe into deep space.
A dedicated study team has formed Project Icarus, an international initiative of the U.S.-based Tau Zero Foundation in collaboration with the British Interplanetary Society (BIS).
The multi-talented group is delving into everything under our the sun to develop designs for the interstellar spaceship, from inertial confinement fusion to reviewing the latest in nanotechnology, computing, and electronics, as well as identifying target star destinations.
Today's Project Icarus signals a bit of a baton-passing from a BIS-backed star ship appraisal called Daedalus that was done in the late 1970s.
"The Project Daedalus theoretical engineering design study took place over three decades ago. In the time since, there have been many advances in science and technology," said Kelvin Long, a key Icarus designer.
"There is a need to maintain interest in and the capability to design interstellar probes," Long told SPACE.com. "With many of the historical leaders in this field now nearing retirement or deceased, the Project Icarus study group wants to take up the baton and keep alive the long term vision that travel to the stars will one day be possible. This is one of the reasons why over half of the team is relatively fresh out of their university studies."
Think outside the box
Designing an unpiloted Project Icarus space probe is requiring the time and energy of some 20 volunteer designers. Taking on interstellar travel this 21st century go-round is estimated to consume around 30,000 man/woman hours of effort, with submission of the final study reports due for 2014.
Many of the original Project Daedalus study participants are providing guidance.
Long said that Project Icarus is an exercise in theoretical engineering to the extreme. Project Icarus, he said, will take another look at several of the Daedalus assumptions and systems. Furthermore, an objective of the initiative is to continue to inspire the next generation.
"Icarus may not be the blueprint for how we first reach the stars, but it is hoped that it will be an important contribution towards this long term goal. Another purpose of Project Icarus is to remind space agency mission planners to think outside of the box," he said.
The intellectual thrust behind Project Icarus will measure, for one, the technological maturity of fusion-based propulsion schemes. Key technological stepping stones are to be identified. In short, a long-haul roadmap to the stars is on the group's to-do list to make such a mission possible.
"This would provide an estimate for the earliest time upon which such a mission could be launched. This may be in the latter part of this century, sometime in the 22nd century or even later," Long observed.
The Project Daedalus effort of decades ago proposed mining Helium-3 (He3) from the gas giant Jupiter which necessitated a massive space based infrastructure.
Fast forward to today means that the Project Icarus group will re-evaluate this fuel acquisition tactic and consider alternatives - such as mining He3 from Earth's moon or exhume deuterium from objects in the Oort cloud. Moreover, the assumed Daedalus propellant combination of deuterium and He3 will also be re-examined, as will implosion-driving schemes.
Originally posted by tothetenthpower
IMO the way forward is magnetic propulsion.
The Japanese have been using it for years and the technology could be easily adapted if we actually put the money into it.
Although there is a giant conspiracy to keep Magnetic Power under wraps as it would provide free energy for everybody with very little or no start up costs at all.
Originally posted by Larryman
Paging Phage... Paging Phage...
Which stardrive concept is the more practical for FTL deep space exploring?
The "Burkhard Heim - hyperspace" method:
The "Miguel Alcubierre - spacewarp" method: