Solar One: The First Manned Interstellar Spaceship
April 29, 2020 (spacedaily.com)
• In a new paper (see here), astronomer Alberto Caballero presents the concept and design of a light-sail propelled by a laser propulsion system that could reach 30% the speed of light and reach the Alpha Centauri star system in 15 years. A small nuclear fission reactor would provide the needed electicity. Caballero says that the 2-crew spacecraft, called ‘Solar One’, could become the first manned interstellar spaceship by the late-20s.
• The human-crewed spaceship would integrate the LANL Mega Power Reactor, a larger version of NASA’ Sunjammer light sail, and an updated version of the HELLADS laser system, all of which are existing or ‘near-term’ technologies. The LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) Mega Power Reactor is a 35 ton fission reactor able to produce continuous power for 12 years. The 38m x 38m Sunjammer light sail is proposed by NASA. And the HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System) is a ground-based laser weapon system operated by DARPA. It would all be launched with SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket. The total cost of Solar One spacecraft would be in the $100 million range.
• Solar One’s large sail would produce an incredible force resulting in a constant acceleration and deceleration during the trip. “The key aspect of this idea resides in the extremely large size of the light sail” – says Caballero. When the spaceship is neither accelerating nor decelerating, the light sail would be rolled up to reduce possible damage by asteroids. The module containing the nuclear micro-reactor would have a protective coating thicker than the rest of the spaceship to protect it from micro-asteroid impacts. But in case of nuclear failure, the chances to survive would be minimal.
• Once the destination is reached, the crew could orbit the exoplanet, take images and send a robot to the surface. If the air is breathable, the crew could choose to land and personally explore the exoplanet.
In a new paper, astronomer Alberto Caballero presents the concept and design of a beam-powered propulsion system that could become the first manned interstellar spaceship by the late-20s.
Solar One, the name he gives to the spaceship, could reach 30% the speed of light, reaching Alpha Centauri system in 15 years.
Alberto argues that, despite light-sail spacecrafts such as the so-called Starships from the Starshot project have already been designed, they might not be the best option to explore exoplanets in detail.
The new type of spaceship would have a light-sail propelled by a laser system, which would receive the necessary electricity from a small nuclear fission reactor.
Solar One is a proposed human-crewed spaceship that would integrate three existing or near-term technologies: the LANL Mega Power Reactor, a larger version of NASA’ Sunjammer light sail, and an updated version of the HELLADS laser system.
Firstly, the LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) Mega Power Reactor is a fission reactor that weighs 35 tons. It is able to produce up to 10 MW, or the equivalent of 2 MW of continuous power for 12 years.
Secondly, the Sunjammer light sail is a proposed NASA sail with a size of 38 x 38 m (1,444 m2).
Thirdly, HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System) is a ground-based laser weapon system demonstrator operated by DARPA, with a goal of 5 kg per KW by 2023.
The idea behind Solar One is to combine these three projects. A 2-crew spaceship with a total mass of 91 tons would be powered by a mile-long light sail in order to achieve the speed of 0.3c.
The large sail would produce an incredible force of more than 170,000 newtons, resulting in a constant acceleration and deceleration of 0.18g during the first and last one year and a half of the trip.
“The key aspect of this idea resides in the extremely large size of the light sail” – says Alberto.
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Alberto Caballero, DARPA, HELLADS laser system, LANL Mega Power Reactor, laser system, light-sail, Los Alamos National Laboratory, nuclear fission reactor, Solar One, SpaceX's Big Falcon Rocket, Sunjammer light sail