Project Daedalus

Description: Between the years 1973 to 1978 a thirteen member team of the British Interplanetary Society developed a theoretical engineering design study called Project Daedalus. It was really performed as a way to address the Fermi Paradox and to ask if interstellar travel was at least feasible in theory, a proof of an existence theorem. They concluded it was. The total wet mass of the two-stage fusion engine design was 52,670 tons, 50,000 tons of which was deuterium and helium-3 fuel. The helium-3 was to be minded from the gas giant Jupiter and therefore suggested a requirement for massive infrastructure. The pellets of fusion fuel were to be detonated by the use of electron beams at a rate of 250 per second. The first stage of the engine would burn for 2.05 years reaching 7.1% of light speed and then the second stage would burn for 1.76 years, reaching a total velocity of 12.2% of light speed. The vehicle would then cruise for 46 years and after 50 years since launch it would reach its destination of Barnard’s Star 5.9 light years away, passing through the star system in around 4 days. In that time it would have to deploy the 18 sub-probes from its total 450 tons science payload. Daedalus was the first full systems integrated engineering starship design study ever conducted, although the nature of the current or near-future technology extrapolations lead to some issues being unaddressed.

Members: Alan Bond, Anthony Martin, Bob Parkinson, Penny Wright, Gerry Webb, Geoff Richard, Tony White, Tim Grant, Rodney Buckland.

Key References:

  • Bond, A et al., Project Daedalus: The Mission Profile, Final Study Report, JBIS Special Supplement, pp.S37-S42, 1978.
  • Martin, A et al., Project Daedalus: The Propulsion System Part 1: Theoretical Considerations and Calculations, Final Study Report, JBIS Special Supplement, PP.s44-s62, 1978.
  • Bond, A et al., Project Daedalus: The Propulsion System Part 2: Engineering Design Considerations and Calculations, Final Study Report, JBIS Special Supplement, pp.S63-S82, 1978.
  • Bond, A & A.R.Martin, Project Daedalus: The Origins & Aims of the Study, JBIS, 28, pp.147-149, 1975.

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