Icarus Interstellar is an international organization dedicated to technical achievements enabling interstellar travel. Research is performed by volunteer citizen scientists with a wide swath of backgrounds, ranging from NASA and ESA aerospace engineers to professional scientists, university professors, students, science fiction writers, artists, thinkers and enthusiasts.
Design teams are coordinated around research projects with a central theme, such as Project Icarus, an interstellar probe design study envisioning the design of a mainly fusion propulsion based engine, and Project Hyperion, a human occupied worldship (interstellar migration ship) study.
Organizationally, Icarus is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in Alaska, February 2011. The organization was created from members of Project Icarus, initiated in September 2009 in an effort to explore multiple interstellar spacecraft systems simultaneously.
Icarus Interstellar was founded by Andreas Tziolas, Richard Obousy, Kelvin Long, Pat Galea and Adam Crowl, all members of the original Project Icarus study group. In an interview, Tziolas stated that the project name was chosen both due to a hint from Daedalus project leader Alan Bond and as a result of a "reshaped" mythos in which Icarus lands on an island and plans to forge steel wings to replace his father's wax wings.
Icarus Interstellar's mission statement reads as follows:
The mission of Icarus Interstellar is to realize interstellar flight before the year 2100. We will accomplish this objective by researching and developing the science and the technologies that will make interstellar flight a reality, igniting the public's interest, and engaging with all those prepared to invest in interstellar exploration.— Icarus Interstellar
With its hundred-year scale, Icarus seeks to select as destination a star like Alpha Centauri within a radius of 15 light years, or a potentially habitable terrestrial planet if discovered within a radius of 22 light years.
Icarus Interstellar's board and members are widespread by a variety of geographic locales, backgrounds and areas of expertise. Board members work in a volunteer capacity. The organization has six directors, as follows:
- Andreas Tziolas, president, education and outreach director
- Richard Obousy, treasurer
- Robert Freeland, secretary
- Adam Crowl, director
- Bill Cress, director
- Robert Swinney, director
The organization has an experimental committee, a fund development committee, a public outreach committee, an education committee and a Starship Congress committee. It seeks to add interstellar engineering training to American and European aerospace education, and to design games that would attract interest in interstellar exploration for "mindshare" purposes.
Students at Drexel University formed a student chapter of Icarus Interstellar in 2013, founded by Damien Turchi, John Breslin, Michael Daily, Zachary Block, and David Evinshteyn. The student chapter is primarily focused on Project Tin Tin (an Icarus Interstellar initiative to create a CubeSat interstellar probe) and Project Icarus. Their work on Project Icarus looks at the possibility of a plasma jet magneto inertial fusion propulsion system in the development of a starship. The chapter has recruited over 60 student members as of 2015.
Icarus Interstellar has several projects all relating to the exploration of space. These include:
- Project Icarus, launched in September 2009 by Kelvin Long and Richard Obousy. Project Icarus is a five-year theoretical design study for a fusion based starship. It starts from the original 1970s Project Daedalus study conducted by members of the British Interplanetary Society. Project Icarus is the flagship project of Icarus Interstellar, being its first design study.
- Project Tin Tin, an Icarus Interstellar initiative to create a CubeSat interstellar probe.
- Project Hyperion, launched in December 2011 by Andreas Hein. Project Hyperion is to perform a preliminary study that defines integrated concepts for a crewed interstellar starship. This is a two-year study mainly based out of the WARR student group at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). The study aims to provide an assessment of the feasibility of manned interstellar flight using current and near-future technoloigies. It also aims to guide future research and technology development plans as well as reassess the Fermi Paradox. Finally it aims to inform the public about the prospects of manned interstellar flight.
- Project Forward, launched in December 2011, by James Benford. Project Forward has the purpose of exploring beamed energy propulsion. The project is named in honor of the late Dr. Robert Forward, a pioneer in the field of interstellar travel research. Project Forward aims to analyze and assess past beam energy concepts, describe the construction and assembly of sail designs and provide a detailed starsail system concept. Challenges include lossy divergence of the beam (transmitted from solar energy focused by a ground or orbital station) and sail design at feasible sizes (that is, smaller than a theoretical design size of roughly a hundred square kilometers).
- Project Persephone, launched in October 2011[failed verification], by Dr. Rachel Armstrong (University of Greenwich). Project Persephone focuses on research and development of living or sustainable architectures for worldships. Project Persephone takes an ecological, rather than mechanical, approach to designing the interior of a worldship that could sustain an ecosystem independent of a host planet. Through research into the sustainable environments necessary to sustain an entirely self-contained worldship, Dr. Armstrong hopes to also improve life in cities on Earth. Project Persephone is a research project conducted by Icarus Interstellar, the University of Greenwich, and others. A cylindrical ship 20 km long and 5 km in diameter, with simulated gravity, has been proposed with an ecosystem that can sustain 50 to 500 people. Synthetic soil "grown specifically for that particular environment" has been proposed, with burrows for human habitation.
- Project Bifrost, launched in December 2011, by Tabitha Smith. The Icarus Interstellar Nuclear Space Technology (NST) and Propulsion Development Program operates with long-term goals of tangible deliverables in mind, such as (1) partnership with the United States government and other vital members of the NST community, (2) the creation of nuclear engines (thermal (NTR) and/or electric) and (3) proof of concept for NTR engines and building the foundation for evolving nuclear propulsion.
- Project Helius, launched in August 2011, by Richard Osborne and Kelvin Long. Project Helius has the purpose of building prototype pulsed propulsion demonstrators to test elements of the Daedalus (or other) architecture. The main areas of study are currently focused on the tracking of pellets and the timing of laser devices.
- Project Orion, researched by Freeman Dyson. Project Orion is a division that studies the use of nuclear fission pulse units that detonate to provide thrust to the spacecraft.
- Project Voyager, launched in summer of 2014, by Zachary Fejes. Project Voyager surrounds the development of interplanetary and interstellar scale mission planning, analysis, and simulation software.
Icarus Interstellar also researches communications methods such as point-to-point laser, use of abandoned fuel tanks as relay stations, or use of moderated fusion pulses to code as signal communications.
In addition, Icarus Interstellar is supporting experiments into exotic propulsion techniques such as faster-than-light warp drive. As the theory is somewhat speculative at this stage, these experiments are designed to test the theory at a fundamental level to determine whether it is consistent with real physics.
Icarus Interstellar hosted Starship Congress, an international assemblage of recognized interstellar space proponents, in Dallas, Texas, August 15 to 18, 2013. In April 2013, Icarus Interstellar announced a call for papers, with papers from selected presenters to be published in a special edition of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. Starship Congress spanned four days, each with a different focus. Day One was dedicated to "Near Future – The Next 20 Years." Day Two focused on "Mid-Future Interstellar Flight – 20-50 years". Day Three covered "Deep Future Interstellar Flight – 50-500+ years". Day Four included a final assembly with closing announcements, thanks, and a recap. Starship Congress was attended by nearly 200 interstellar scientists, engineers, astronomers, historians, economists, architects, artists, anthropologists and enthusiasts.
Starship Congress 2015 is scheduled for September 4 and 5, 2015, hosted at Drexel University.
The Icarus Interstellar team includes established scientists that have published numerous articles in a wide range of peer-reviewed scientific journals. A significant number of scientific articles have resulted from the Icarus Project itself, and have been published in peer-reviewed journals under the flag of Icarus Interstellar. These include:
Stanic, M.; Cassibry, J.T.; Adams, R.B. (2013). "Project Icarus: Analysis of Plasma jet driven Magneto-Inertial Fusion as potential primary propulsion driver for the Icarus probe". Acta Astronautica. 86: 47–54. Bibcode:2013AcAau..86...47S. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2012.08.010.
Long, K.F. (2011). "Project Icarus: The First Unmanned Interstellar Mission – Robotic Expansion and Technological Growth". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 64: 107–115. Bibcode:2011JBIS...64..107L.
Ceyssens, F.; Driesen, M.; Wouters, K. (2012). "On the Organisation of World Ships and Other Gigascale Interstellar Space Exploration Projects". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 65: 134–139. Bibcode:2012JBIS...65..134C.
From 2011 to 2013, the following other articles by Icarus Interstellar members were published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society:
- Project Icarus: Fission-Fusion Hybrid Fuel for Interstellar Propulsion
- Project Icarus: A Review of the Daedalus Main Propulsion System
- Project Icarus: Interstellar Spaceprobes and Encounters with Extraterrestrial Intelligence
- Evaluation of Technological-Social and Political Projections for the Next 100–300 Years and the Implications for an Interstellar Mission
- Project Icarus, A 21st Century Interstellar Starship Study
- Project Icarus: Exploring the Interstellar Roadmap using the Icarus Pathfinder and Starfinder Probe Concepts
- Project Icarus: Nuclear Fusion Propulsion Concept Comparison
- Project Icarus: A Review of Interstellar Starship Designs
- Project Icarus: Progress Report on Technical Developments and Design Considerations
- Technical Note - Project Icarus: The Origins and Aims of the Study
- Project Icarus: Mechanisms for Enhancing the Stability of Gravitationally Lensed Interstellar Communications
- Project Icarus: Stakeholder Scenarios for an Interstellar Exploration Program
- Project Icarus - Flying Closer to Another Star - A Technical Update and Progress Review
- Andersen, Ross (23 Feb 2012). "Project Icarus: Laying the Plans for Interstellar Travel". The Atlantic. Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- Kachur, Torah (30 May 2014). "Icarus spaceship designed for humans to live there permanently: 50 to 500 humans could take refuge in space in case of global catastrophe". CBC News. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- Starship Congress Schedule icarusinterstellar.org
- Official website
- Official blog
- Hein, A.M.; Pak, M.; Pütz, D.; Bühler, C.; Reiss, P. (2012). "World Ships - Architecture & Feasibility Revisited" (pdf). Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 65: 119–133. Bibcode:2012JBIS...65..119H. 2012.65.119.
- Hein, Andreas M.; Tziolas, Andreas C.; Osborne, Richard (2011). "Project Icarus: Stakeholder Scenarios for an Interstellar Exploration Program" (pdf). Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 64: 224–233. Bibcode:2011JBIS...64..224H. 2011.64.224.
- Starship Congress