To Boldly Go | J@N | 3.24.11

To Boldly Go | J@N | 3.24.11

NASA’s recent announcement of the 100-Year Starship project got us thinking it would be a good time to take a look at the present and future of space travel!

Join Chris and Heather as they cover the current state of space propulsion and what might be in the near future!

Show Feeds:


Show Notes:

NASA’s 100-Year Starship Project Sets Sights on Interstellar Travel
Will examine the business model needed to develop and mature a technology portfolio enabling long-distance manned space flight a century from now

Chemical Means

Video : Space Shuttle
*Rely on chemical reaction between two substances; *can be throttled; *high specific impulse; *can be re-used; *can be tested

*Burns at predictable rate; *can remain in storage for long periods; *can launch on short notice;


Nuclear thermal rocket :
-In a nuclear thermal rocket a working fluid, usually liquid hydrogen, is heated to a high temperature in a nuclear reactor, and then expands through a rocket nozzle to create thrust.
– no nuclear thermal rocket has flown

Solar thermal rocket:
Makes use of solar power to directly heat reaction mass, and therefore does not require an electrical generator as most other forms of solar-powered propulsion do
engine thrust is directly related to the surface area of the solar collector and to the local intensity of the solar radiation. Indirect solar heating involves pumping the propellant through passages in a heat exchanger that is heated by solar radiation
-Direct solar heating involves exposing the propellant directly to solar radiation

Gravitational Slingshot
Gravity assistance can be used to accelerate, decelerate and/or re-direct the path of a spacecraft.
Animation –
+ no propellant needed
– Everything has to be in just the right spot

Electrical Propulsion

Ion Thrusters :
-An ion thruster is a form of electric propulsion used for spacecraft propulsion that creates thrust by accelerating ions. Ion thrusters are categorized by how they accelerate the ions, using either electrostatic or electromagnetic force

-Russian satellites have used electric propulsion for decades, and newer Western geo-orbiting spacecraft are starting to use them for north-south station keeping.
+ high specific impulse
– Uses a large amount of power and low thrust
Solar sail
-Using the radiation pressure of light from a star or laser to push enormous ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds.
-In 2010, IKAROS was the world’s first spacecraft designed to use solar sailing propulsion to be successfully launched
-Video 1:24

Fusion rocket

Nuclear fusion reactions. In this kind of reaction, two light atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus and in doing so, release a large amount of energy.
– proposed reactor vessels are large and heavy, making them unsuitable to use on spacecraft in the foreseeable future
+ very high specific impulse
+ fusion rocket may produce less radiation than a fission rocket, reducing the mass needed for shielding



Speed of light :
-1,079 million km/hr :: 671 million mi/hr
-Special relativity Theory :
[*] The laws of physics would be unaffected by motion at a constant velocity
[*] The speed of light is constant and is the upper limit for the speeds of objects with positive rest mass

* for an object at rest [ V=0 → y=1 ] → E=1*mc2 →  E=mc2
* for a moving object, as velocity → the speed of light [c],  y → Infinity as does the Energy
Visualization of Einstein’s special relativity

The Future? / What we know

-Based on what we know –
-Faster-than-light :
-Special Theory of Relativity – Does not forbid the existence of particles that travel faster than light
-Apparent/Effective FTL : Hypothesis → unusually distorted regions of spacetime might permit matter to reach distant locations faster than it would take light in the normal or undistorted spacetime

Status of Warp Drive
-Theories of making this happen, similar to Star Trek. Warping space around you.
-Emerging possibilities –


Alcubierre’s “Warp Drive” – the moving sidewalk / expand behind you & contract in front

Negative mass propulsion –

-Millis’s hypothetical “Space Drives” – A “space drive” can be defined as an idealized form of propulsion where the fundamental properties of matter and spacetime are used to create propulsive forces anywhere in space without having to carry and expel a reaction mass

Status on Anti-matter
-Antimatter is matter with its electrical charge reversed.
-Anti-electrons, called “positrons,” are like an electron but with a positive charge.
-Antiprotons are like protons with a negative charge.
-Positron, antiprotons and other antiparticles can be routinely created at particle accelerator labs
-Can even be trapped and stored for days or weeks at a time.
-And just last year, they made antihydrogen for the first time. It didn’t last long, but they did it.
-Also, Antimatter is NOT antigravity.
-Right now it would cost about One-Hundred-Billion dollars to create one milligram of antimatter


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