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Updating the 100 Year Starship Symposium

I’ve got an out of town speaking gig today and am pressed for time, so this may be a good occasion for something I needed to do anyway for the record, which is to highlight the papers given by Tau Zero Foundation and Project Icarus people at the recent 100 Year Starship Symposium. Most of the following were delivered as individual talks, although some were presented in panels. If you’re interested in reading the papers each author prepared for the conference, many (but not all, evidently) are to be published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. I’ll deliver publishing details when they become available.

Here are the presentations of those associated with Tau Zero:

  • E. Davis, “Faster-Than-Light Space Warps, Status and Next Steps”
  • K. Denning, “Inertia of Past Futures” (anthropology)
  • P. Gilster, “The Interstellar Vision: Principles and Practice”
  • G. Landis, “Plasma Shield for an Interstellar Vehicle”
  • C. Maccone, “Sun Focus Comes First, Interstellar Comes Second (Mission concept)”
  • J. Maclay, “Role of the Quantum Vacuum in Space Travel”
  • G. Matloff, “Light Sailing to the Stars”
  • M. Millis, “Space Drive Physics, Intro and Next Steps”
  • M. Millis, “Cockpit Considerations for Inertial Affect and FTL Propulsion”
  • R. Noble, “Small Body Exploration Technologies as Precursors for Interstellar Robotics”
  • S. White, “Warp Field Mechanics 101”

You may also be interested in Slate’s take on the Symposium, which focuses on some of the breakthrough propulsion concepts at the far edge of the speculative frontier. The Smithsonian’s blog also carried an update about the conference, while MSNBC offered up a look at possible starship destinations, a major interest as we continue to lack planetary data for nearby stars. Finally, I loved Gregory Benford’s article describing the 100 Year Starship Symposium: The First Hard Science Fiction Convention.

Papers and presentations from the Icarus team in Orlando were plentiful indeed:

  • J. Benford, “Recent Developments in Interstellar Beam-Driven Sails”
  • B. Cress, “Icarus Interstellar’s New Icarus Institute for Interstellar Sciences”
  • A. Crowl, J. Hunt, “How an Embryo Space Colonization (ESC) Mission Solves the Time-Distance Problem”
  • J.R. French, “A Review of the Daedalus Main Propulsion System”
  • R. Freeland, “Fission-Fusion Hybrid Fuel for Interstellar Propulsion”
  • P. Galea, “Machine Learning and the Starship: A Match Made in Heaven”
  • A. Hale, “Exoplanet Studies for Potential Icarus Destination Stars”
  • A. Hein, “Technology, Society and Politics in the Next 100-300 Years: Implications for Interstellar Flight”
  • A. Hein, K. Long, “Exploratory Research for an Interstellar Mission: Technology Readiness, Stakeholds and Research Sustainability”
  • R. Obousy, “A Review of Interstellar Starship Designs”
  • R. Obousy, “A 21st Century Interstellar Starship Study”
  • M. Stanic, “Fusion Propulsion Comparison”
  • R. Swinney, “Initial Considerations in Exploring the Interstellar Roadmap”
  • R. Swinney, “Navigational and Guidance Requirements of an Interstellar Spacecraft”
  • A. Tziolas, “Long Term Computing”
  • A. Tziolas, “ Starflight Academy: Education in Interstellar Engineering”

Also, be aware that Ian O’Neill is continuing his coverage of the Icarus study, the latest article being a look at sex in space that circles around to starship design. Icarus team member Tiffany Frierson gives us her personal perspective on the conference (and it was a pleasure to meet Tiffany, who was often to be found circulating near the Icarus and Tau Zero tables snapping photos). Athena Andreadis presents an insightful look at the conception and preconceptions of the conference in If They Come, It Might Get Built. Finally, Centauri Dreams contributor and Astronomy Now editor Keith Cooper offers up his own take on starship design and fusion propulsion in an excellent essay that delivers helpful background and segues into the Icarus team’s thoughts on fusion’s future between the stars.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Daniel October 14, 2011, 18:50
  • ljk October 14, 2011, 20:30

    Live Blogging: DARPA’s 100 Year Starship Conference

    By Keith Cowing on October 2, 2011 8:30 AM 17 Comments

    Keith’s note: DARPA is hosting a conference for its 100 Year Starship project between 30 September – 2 October in Orlando. The agenda is interesting and ecclectic. We’ll be onsite at the conference covering this event via live blogging at our new sister site NASAHackSpace.com. You can also follow via Twitter at @NASAhackSpace or see Tweets from other participants on Twitter via the hashtag #100yss.


  • Duncan Ivry October 15, 2011, 12:49

    Bob: “A current literature search in a nascent field is used as evidence that the field is worthless and unworthy of study. A conclusion both illogical and conservative to the point of being obstructionist.”

    No, you are distorting my words. Not the literature search is my evidence, but the statements I read in this literature, and, as far as I can tell most seriously, these statements are like I said previously: a small amount of theory, and *only* theory, no physical experiments, not even useful suggestions, only totally unspecified claims of this and that being possible or promising, (choosing different words here) chains of references to references to references etc. with no substance at the end of the chain.

    Let’s make an example:

    Somebody claimed, that perhaps a very strong nuclear explosion will cause a pertinent warping of space. He did not say a single word, why this should happen, and he did not give any reference to some supporting arguments. He just stated.

    Now, I think: To the best of my knowledge, do *I* know some supporting arguments? I wish I would, because it would be fascinating, but: No. And counterarguments? Well, there have been a lot of nuclear explosions (sad as it is) in the past, with a lot of measurement devices directed to these explosions, and never has there been any evidence that space has been warped according to an alternative space warp metric.

    Above that, there are further pieces of literature, where others make statements of there own and reference the work mentioned above. And there is still the problem not beeing able to make a conclusion from research exclusively in the formula cloud (that’s what the authors did) to physical reality.

    That’s how it is. I didn’t make this up, but the authors in question did what they did. In the end we have just a statement without substance, being bad science, and more bad science built upon it.

    For me the field in question is indeed *not* “worthless and unworthy of study” — just the opposite is true. I spent much time on this, and *did* study — not only search, but study! –, and I continue doing this (with lower priority).

    Again I ask you: Did you do anything equivalent?

    Don’t accuse me “of being” an “obstructionist”, please.

  • Duncan Ivry October 15, 2011, 12:57


    Thank you for the reference to “Warp Field Mechanics 101”. I will study this — but I will need some time.

  • Eniac October 15, 2011, 15:34

    I have always liked the idea of the space time shortcut, as exemplified by the stargate and wormhole ideas. It is not difficult to imagine a space-time structure where you have two door frames with space-time arranged around them such that anything going in through one fame comes out through the other, and vice versa. I believe the geometry is simple and consistent, and spacetime can be flat throughout (no crushing tidal forces), except for a nasty singularity inside the circumference of each frame. No worse than the Alcubierre metric, really. The travel convenience is hard to beat: Once we install one on another world, we can simply walk there.

    Of course, like the Alcubierre metric, it is pure fiction, with the best rendering that I have seen in that enjoyable little movie Monsters, Inc.

  • Bob October 15, 2011, 15:50

    Duncan asks me “Did you do anything equivalent?” I read the original paper and have seem others. I did not comb through every reference like you but that is irrelevant to my comments. I do self study in depth several different subjects.

    “Somebody claimed, that perhaps a very strong nuclear explosion will cause a pertinent warping of space. He did not say a single word, why this should happen, and he did not give any reference to some supporting arguments. He just stated.”

    Yes, he is putting out an idea for others to contemplate. Sorry if it does not meet your standards Duncan but he is putting out an idea while you are critiquing it. It is fine to be the critic, it may be a bad idea, but in my book he is contributing something.

    “In the end we have just a statement without substance, being bad science, and more bad science built upon it.”

    So, what’s your solution? Nobody say write anything on the subject until they *know* how to solve the issues involved? That would just shut down the field of study.

    I seriously doubt if anyone thinks these ideas are ready for development. I think everyone here knows they are highly speculative but one has to start somewhere.

    “For me the field in question is indeed *not* “worthless and unworthy of study” — just the opposite is true. I spent much time on this, and *did* study — not only search, but study! –, and I continue doing this (with lower priority).”

    I am glad you are doing that. Maybe you can strengthen the field with stronger ideas. It’s just that the tone of your critique sounded quite harsh to me.

  • Duncan Ivry October 16, 2011, 20:27

    Bob, thank you for your answer. I really appreciate it.

    You ask: “So, what’s your solution?”

    What I said already (without claiming completeness):
    – making statements and claims only combined with good reasons,
    – when researching in the formula cloud only (which is okay), not jumping to unjustified conclusions about the real world,
    – at least making useful proposals for physical experiments, better indeed performing physical experiments,
    – not characterizing like “can be done”, “is possible”, “is promising”, and the like, when based on what is given indeed nobody is able to *do* something except with formulas,
    – not claiming engineerability, when there is no concept presented, by which real things will be constructed,
    – not referencing a work as support for a statement, when the referenced work only contains a reference to another work, etc., etc., with no substance at the end of the chain, but, instead of this, referencing like it has to be done in correct scientific work,
    – and people *should* prefer not referencing their own work in so many cases.

    Generally, I can only request that people, who claim to do science, do science at all and do good science, which can be learned at certain institutions. There’s a standard — not my standard only — in the science of physics.

    I hope you see, that my point is not so much *what* is written — “anything on the subject” (which could be annoying too) –, but the *way* something is written.

    And think about this, please: Putting out an idea (a nuclear explosion in order to warp space) “for others to contemplate” led to me contemplating about it and coming to certain conclusions and to an assessment of the idea’s quality. Obviously I did what it’s meant for. From your comments I got the impression, that you do not want to exclude negative assessments per se. So what?

  • Steven Rappolee October 17, 2011, 20:10

    I am hoping the national ignition facility will do some implosive experiments with Lithium 7 shelled micro bubbles, or lithium 7 shelled micro bubbles with a DT core

  • Steven Rappolee October 17, 2011, 21:14

    The black hole in the center of our galaxy ejects stars from our galaxy at tremendous speeds, perhaps we should do a thought experiment.We build a world ship inside an asteroid and send it on a planned black hole flyby and gravity assist, but this might not be a survivable journey to another Galaxy, A journey far to long, so perhaps a milky way satellite Galaxy might be a better idea.
    Another idea is to find a star that is on a trajectory to the central black hole and put our world ship in orbit around this target star, wait for the black hole flyby :)
    is there a method to maneuver a star into such a trajectory?
    this is a million year project! world ships at 1 % c to the galactic center would take millennia and the journey to another galaxy even longer,
    so we need to start planning right now :)

  • ljk October 18, 2011, 9:26

    Steven Rappolee proposed on October 17, 2011 at 21:14 to use the powerful masses of black holes to fling worldships made of hollowed out planetoids (yah!) at tremendous speeds to other points in the galaxy.

    The problem is that all the black holes we know of in the Milky Way are pretty far away, and the biggest one of all in the galactic core is 26,000 light years distant.

    So if we used the nearest most massive celestial bodies we know of, namely our star Sol and the four Jovian planets, how much extra speed could we get from them via gravitational slingshot if we used a hollowed out planetoid say a couple miles long?

    Would it make enough difference to get our Worldship travelers to another star in fewer generations than otherwise? Would we also avoid having to use fancy, powerful rockets too?

  • ljk October 18, 2011, 9:32

    Not Such a Stretch to Reach for the Stars


    Published: October 17, 2011

    ORLANDO, Fla. — A starship without an engine?

    Yet here in Orlando, not far from the launching site of the space program’s most triumphant achievements, the government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, drew hundreds this month to a symposium on the 100-Year Starship Study, which is devoted to ideas for visiting the stars.

    Participants — an eclectic mix of engineers, scientists, science fiction fans, students and dreamers — explored a mix of ideas, including how to organize and finance a century-long project; whether civilization would survive, because an engine to propel a starship could also be used for a weapon to obliterate the planet; and whether people need to go along for the trip. (Alternatively, machines could build humans at the destination, perhaps tweaked to live in non-Earth-like environs.)

    “The space program, any space program, needs a dream,” said one participant, Joseph Breeden. “If there are no dreamers, we’ll never get anywhere.”

    It was Dr. Breeden who offered the idea of an engineless starship.

    Full article here:


    To quote the last paragraphs of this article, ’cause they are real good:

    “Vision without execution is daydreaming,” Mr. Neyland said in his introductory remarks, paraphrasing a Japanese proverb.

    “And what we’re trying to inspire with the 100-Year Starship Study is that first step in establishing a bar that’s high enough, with challenges that are hard enough that people will actually go start tackling some of these really hard problems.”

    For Dr. Breeden, discussions with other attendees affirmed his underlying idea and calculations, but it seems unlikely that asteroid flinging would be sufficient by itself. Still, it could prove a useful and cost-effective supplement for other propulsions systems.

    The $1.1 million study — $1 million from Darpa, $100,000 from NASA — will culminate with the awarding of a $500,000 grant to an organization that will take the torch for further work.

    Darpa would then exit the starship business, sidestepping interrogation by Congress during the next budget hearings of why it was spending taxpayer money on science fiction dreams.

    “They want to get people thinking about a topic and propagate it very subtly,” said Gregory Benford, a physics professor at the University of California, Irvine, who is also a science fiction author (and the twin brother of James Benford). “They want it out of the budget by early next year.”

    Perhaps tellingly, no high-level NASA officials spoke at the symposium other than Pete Worden, director of the Ames Research Center in California, whom Mr. Neyland described as a “co-conspirator” and who is often regarded as a maverick in the space agency.

    “If we’re lucky, it will change NASA,” the science-fiction-writing Dr. Benford said of the starship research.

    Some speakers said they thought the first goal over the next century should be colonizing the solar system, starting with Mars.

    Dr. Obousy, for one, made his preference known in a couplet:

    On to the stars!

    Cowards shoot for Mars.

  • Eniac October 18, 2011, 12:24

    Would it make enough difference to get our Worldship travelers to another star in fewer generations than otherwise? Would we also avoid having to use fancy, powerful rockets too?

    It is a nice concept, but in a flyby you can never gain more than twice the velocity of the flyby target. That means the voyagers have pretty much exhausted what you can do within the solar system, and when going from star to star you can gain only a few tens of km/s from each one. What is worse, as you speed up, the amount you can gain from an encounter decreases, because the maximum possible change in direction gets smaller. You’d have to look for denser and denser stars, and get the final kicks from a long series of black holes….

  • steven rappolee October 19, 2011, 15:41

    I was referring of course to the black hole at the galactic center, and there are a number of papers that speak of ejected stars from the galaxy from



    a number of hypervolicity stars travel at around (717 (km per second)) divided by (300 000 (km per second)) = 0.00239 or .00239 c
    a hypervolicity star would take a thousand years to go 4 light years (?) so we know our world ship has to be under way on its own power.

    Near term,
    In an earlier post I wished for the discovery of a brown dwarf between us and a nearby star, as mentioned by ENIAC,
    “What is worse, as you speed up, the amount you can gain from an encounter decreases, because the maximum possible change in direction gets smaller”
    so at slower speeds a world ship could perhaps have its trajectory bent by a brown dwarf towards its target star……………………….

  • Ron S October 19, 2011, 20:53

    “…so at slower speeds a world ship could perhaps have its trajectory bent by a brown dwarf towards its target star…”

    Sure, but the trip will go quicker if you aim properly to begin with.

  • Eniac October 21, 2011, 13:48

    Not necessarily. If the brown dwarf was a fast one, say going 1oo km/s towards the target star, and we were to send our probe to intercept it at low speed and swing around it 180 degrees, we would gain 200 km/s, not too shabby. We would certainly arrive ahead of Voyager.

    The problem is that any such speeding brown dwarf would be long gone, or not here yet, at the time we need it. Besides, there are probably very few of those in the first place, so we would have to be very, very lucky. Might as well wait for a black hole pair to come along, to get some real kick ….

  • Ron S October 21, 2011, 14:38

    Yes, it is certainly possible we’ll get lucky and find a large body in just the right place moving at just the right velocity to make the gravity assist beneficial. However that is highly unlikely so I feel comfortable excluding the possibility.

    Alternatively, and with higher probability, when you find a suitable body with reasonably-suitable motion you then choose a destination based on the trajectory space that would benefit from the (modest) gravity assist. It is still too much to hope for since high-velocity bodies anywhere near enough to be useful are stubbornly absent. Even 100 km/s is well outside the norm in our neighborhood.

    In regard to interstellar propulsion options we are better served by creating the necessary conditions rather than hoping that nature will toss us a bone.

  • ljk January 6, 2012, 21:25

    Through hardship to the stars

    by Staff Writers

    Washington DC (SPX) Jan 05, 2012

    Accepting that interstellar travel will, at very best, take decades, some are now considering using suspended animation, or even carrying the DNA and other resources necessary to recreate humans on an unmanned ship.

    “Humanity’s adventurous, stubborn, mad and glorious aspiration to reach the stars” is the subject of Physics World’s lead feature in January.

    Sidney Perkowitz, Candler Professor of Physics Emeritus at Emory University, Atlanta, US, reports from the 100 Year Starship Study (100YSS) conference and discusses the challenges that interstellar travel presents.

    Full article here:


  • ljk February 23, 2012, 15:26

    Organizing and financing interstellar space projects – A bottom-up approach

    Authors: Frederik Ceyssens, Maarten Driesen, Kristof Wouters, Pieter-Jan Ceyssens, Lianggong Wen

    (Submitted on 25 Sep 2011)

    Abstract: The development and deployment of interstellar missions will without doubt require orders of magnitude more resources than needed for current or past megaprojects (Apollo, Iter, LHC,…). Question is how enough resources for such gigaprojects can be found.

    In this contribution different scenarios will be explored assuming limited, moderate economic growth throughout the next centuries, i.e. without human population and productivity continuing to grow exponentially, and without extreme events such as economic collapse or singularity.

    In such a world, which is not unlike the current situation, gigascale space projects face a combination of inhibiting factors: the enormous cost threshold, the need for risky and costly development of often quite application specific technology, the relatively little benefit with respect to the costs for the sponsors, the time span of at least a few generations and the absence of a sense of urgency.

    It will be argued that the best chance of getting an interstellar project started in this generation is to establish an international network of non governmental organizations (NGOs) focused on private and public fundraising for interstellar exploration, similar to e.g. the WWF.

    It is shown that this path reduces the massive barriers to entry as well as the level of governmental support needed.

    The path is argued to fit best with three defining features of gigascale space projects, which should be recognized to the fullest: their almost absolute nonprofit character, their massive cost in terms of time and resources and their non-urgency leading to procrastination.

    Even if relatively modest but recurring funding is found enough resources can be gathered over time, provided the majority of the NGOs’ income is saved up in a long term fund similar to that of the Noble Foundation or Norway’s Government Pension Fund.

    Comments: presented at 100 Year Starship conference organised by DARPA / NASA, Orlando, 2011

    Subjects: Popular Physics (physics.pop-ph)

    Cite as: arXiv:1109.5318v1 [physics.pop-ph]

    Submission history

    From: Frederik Ceyssens [view email]

    [v1] Sun, 25 Sep 2011 02:40:59 GMT (145kb)