Interstellar rendezvous missions employing fission propulsion systems

Lenard, Roger X.; Lipinski, Ronald J.
January 2000
AIP Conference Proceedings;2000, Vol. 504 Issue 1, p1544
Academic Journal
There has been a conventionally held nostrum that fission system specific power and energy content is insufficient to provide the requisite high accelerations and velocities to enable interstellar rendezvous missions within a reasonable fraction of a human lifetime. As a consequence, all forms of alternative mechanisms that are not yet, and may never be technologically feasible, have been proposed, including laser light sails, fusion and antimatter propulsion systems. In previous efforts, [Lenard and Lipinski, 1999] the authors developed an architecture that employs fission power to propel two different concepts: one, an unmanned probe, the other a crewed vehicle to Alpha Centauri within mission times of 47 to 60 years. The first portion of this paper discusses employing a variant of the “Forward Resupply Runway” utilizing fission systems to enable both high accelerations and high final velocities necessary for this type of travel. The authors argue that such an architecture, while expensive, is considerably less expensive and technologically risky than other technologically advanced concepts, and, further, provides the ability to explore near-Earth stellar systems out to distances of 8 light years or so. This enables the ability to establish independent human societies which can later expand the domain of human exploration in roughly eight light-year increments even presuming that no further physics or technology breakthroughs or advances occur. In the second portion of the paper, a technology requirement assessment is performed. The authors argue that reasonable to extensive extensions to known technology could enable this revolutionary capability. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.


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