Centauri Dreams looks at a space imperative, building closed ecologies for years- or decades-long missions. Early work on Earth has revealed how far we have to go. The time is now to add on to this work with a new push in closed systems.
Triton from Voyager 2. NASA
Nexbigfuture – A paper calculates the advantage of launch at launch altitudes 5 to 25 kilometer altitudes above sea level for single stage to orbit vehicles. The performance increase can be directly translated into increased payload capability to orbit, ranging from 5 to 20% increase in the mass to orbit. For a candidate vehicle with an initial payload fraction of 2% of gross lift-off weight, this corresponds to 31% increase in payload (for 5-km launch altitude) to 122% additional payload (for 25-km launch altitude).
Nextbigfuture – Space Warp equations are being tested using an instrument called the White-Juday Warp Field Interferometer. At Johnson Space Center, Eagleworks has initiated an interferometer test bed that will try to generate and detect a microscopic instance of a little warp bubble. Although this is just a tiny instance of the phenomena, it will be existence proof for the idea of perturbing space time—a “Chicago pile” moment, as it were. Recall that December of 1942 saw the first demonstration of a controlled nuclear reaction that generated a whopping half watt. This existence proof was followed by the activation of a ~ four megawatt reactor in November of 1943. Existence proof for the practical application of a scientific idea can be a tipping point for technology development. The NASA project is awaiting a laser to begin their tests.
Nextbigfuture – The Optically Controlled and Corrected Active Meta-material Space Structures (OCCAMS) project is a phase 2 NASA NIAC study which could reduce the cost of space elescopes by 250 times. Beyond Hubble class space telescopes could cost a few million instead of a few billion dollars. The mirror costs would be reduced by over 500 times.
Nextbigfuture – Orbiting Rainbows: Optical Manipulation of Aerosols and the Beginnings of Future Space Construction project is a NASA NIAC phase 1 funded study. This one takes advantage of certain places in space having almost no gravitational effects which enables things of very large size to be placed without needing a structure to hold them in place. Their objective is to investigate the conditions to manipulate and maintain the shape of an orbiting cloud of dust-like matter so that it can function as an ultra-lightweight surface with useful and adaptable electromagnetic characteristics, for instance, in the optical, RF, or microwave bands.
Nextbigfuture – The Fusion Driven rocket (FDR) (NASA NIAC phase 2 study) represents a revolutionary approach to fusion propulsion where the power source releases its energy directly into the propellant, not requiring conversion to electricity. It employs a solid lithium propellant that requires no significant tankage mass. The propellant is rapidly heated and accelerated to high exhaust velocity (over 30 km/s), while having no significant physical interaction with the spacecraft thereby avoiding damage to the rocket and limiting both the thermal heat load and radiator mass. In addition, it is believed that the FDR can be realized with little extrapolation from currently existing technology, at high specific power (about 1 kW/kg), at a reasonable mass scale (less than 100 mt), and therefore cost. John Slough could have an experiment in 2012 with a net gain in fusion energy of 1.6 (this could be the first net gain in fusion energy ever). It will be an imploding liner experiment. For space propulsion he is targeting a 200 times gain in energy output from what is input. Mission profiles are for 30 day or 90 day missions to Mars with over 5000 ISP.