100 Year Starship Conference: Day 1

Today, we are pleased to welcome a new correspondent to Parabolic Arc: my good friend and ISU classmate Eric Dahlstrom. Eric is President of International Space Consultants, a firm that offers a variety of services to space companies. He has also served as chairman of ISU’s Space Physical Sciences Department and curriculum director at the Singularity University. Eric is in Orlando this weekend at DARPA’s 100 Year Starship Conference, a gathering of experts looking at how to launch humanity to the stars. Eric will be filing reports throughout the weekend.


100 Year Starship Conference
First Day Notes

Dave Neyland, DARPA

  • talked about long range visions – daVinci inspiring human flight attempts, Jules Verne inspiring space travel with his 1865 story about a voyage to the Moon.
  • Why DoD interest? Pointed out some space exploration technologies of interest to the military (food, energy, biotech, etc.) and cases where the military has made use of space technologies.

Pete Worden, NASA Ames

  • coming to the end of the one year study on the 100 year starship
  • within a few decades we will have human settlements off Earth – which is one of the best justifications for a human exploration program.
  • settlements can only be done by the private sector
  • can the private sector spread humanity to other stars?
It's standing room only at the Starship Propulsion session, one of the six parallel sessions at the 100 Year Starship Public Conference. (Credit: Eric Dahlstrom)

Ariel Waldman, spacehack.org

  • gave examples of citizen involvement in space development – small balloon flights, learning to make smallsats, rover contests, crowd-sourcing galaxy classification, hacker space
  • Dave Neyland praised her talk for “addressing problems differently”
  • [but there was a stark contrast between the small scale public efforts she described and the task of traveling to the stars]

Jim Benford, Time-Distance Solutions track chair

  • reminded attendees of the challenge of interstellar flight with discussion of the distances involved. (‘If Earth-Moon distance fit in this conference room, where is the nearest star? .. at the distance of the Moon.’)
  • said 205 abstracts were submitted for this track
  • “If starships can be built, they will be our civilization’s cathedrals

Richard Obousy, President, Icarus International

  • “The 100 year starship study has reenergized the small starship community”
  • Icarus International was formed in March 2011 to continue studies on starship design.

James French, Icarus International

  • – reviewed 1970’s Daedalus starship design, with some updates from current technology – claimed “no show-stoppers” for technology
  • – “When I worked on Voyager, I signed the spacecraft.. and since spacecraft cleaning is not perfect, my DNA is on the way to the stars. But I want to send the rest of me too.”

Rob Adams, NASA MSFC

  • gave paper for M. Stanic, reviewing current fusion designs for applicability for starship propulsion
  • “The National Ignition Facility is about the size of this convention center.. it will require some development to shrink it’s size to a starship propulsion system”

Geoff Landis, NASA Glenn

  • giving the paper for Stan Bobrowski, reviewed Nuclear (fission) Thermal Propulsion systems and the new effort to continue development of the 1960’s NERVA engine designs, aiming for flight test around 2020.
  • “Fission rockets will not get you to the stars, but will be useful as a kind of ‘pickup truck’ to get you around the solar system. We will need the resources of the solar system to build a starship.”
  • Question about safety issues – you would launch the reactor cold, and only run the engine far from Earth. “Space is the place for nuclear power. Space is already radioactive.”