The Initiative for Interstellar Studies (i4is) is excited to announce that our workshop proposal has been accepted for the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (TVIW) to be held in Oakridge, Tennessee, USA, this November. Our proposal was selected under theme 1 "near-term and far-term concepts for travelling at interstellar ranges".
It could be argued that there is only one real “Starship Design” in history, and that is Project Daedalus. Efforts have been under way for some time to evolve more designs (e.g. Project Icarus, Project Dragonfly....) but these are still too few and focused on existing physics and engineering ideas. There is a need to facilitate the emergence of new ideas from the creative process of the imagination. This workshop proposes to literally exemplify the meaning of ‘from imagination to reality’ by taking Starship ideas from the Science Fiction literature, turning the handle on the physics and engineering, and producing credible pre-co ncept design solutions (terminology acknowledges that full design solutions are not expected). The philosophy is to remain as close to the intention of the author’s ideas as possible, except where two or more elements clearly show a conflict, in which case members will have to make a design decision. This process has previously been demonstrated in a publication by one of our team with other authors, to examine the Enzmann Starship, where an extensive literature search was carried out and a paper published as an engineering assessment of the idea which had not properly been rigorously defined previously. For more information see:
“The Enzmann Starship: History and Engineering Appraisal”, JBIS, 65, pp.185-199, 2012, A.Crowl, K.F.Long, R.Obousy.
This workshop proposes to conduct a similar analysis but on starship ideas from science fiction. As an example, take the Magellan starship from Clarke’s ‘The Songs of Distant Earth’, which went to a star 100 ly away. It is a cylinder 4 km long, carrying a small conscious crew but supervising a million frozen sleepers. It uses a 0.2c quantum ramjet from vacuum energy. It carried 100,000 tons of water ice moulded in to a conical shield. It calls at the planet Thalassa 50ly from Earth to replenish the ice shield. Take everything we know about the Magellan from the writing and turn it into a real Starship configuration layout, with basic performance specification defined and images. Other possible starship concepts to be considered for the workshop include:
- The laser sail system in Larry Niven’s ‘The Mote in Gods Eye’
- The Bussard ramjet from Poul Anderson’s ‘Tau Zero’
- The Archeron nuclear-electric drive from Clarke’s ‘Earthlight’.
- The Sunjammer Solar photon sail from Clarke’s ‘The Wind from the Sun’.
- The antimatter drive from Ben Bova’ ‘Queen of Angels’.
- The Rama from Clarke’s ‘Rendezvous with Rama’.
- The Warp Drive from Baxter’s ‘Ark’.
And this is what the attending workshop members will have to work out:
- Physics and engineering description of operation
- Performance table with focus on the propulsion, but also the power supply and others.
- Vehicle configuration layout and specification
- Graphics, including an orthographic engineering drawing and 3D depiction.
- Mission profile.
The host i4is organiser will firstly give a lecture introducing the members to various starships in the science fiction literature and ‘data dumping’ what is known about them. The members would then be split into 3-5 teams (depending on attendance) and throughout the duration of the workshop, they are to conduct an analysis of the idea and produce a credible representation of the vehicle. Some key equations will be provided to the members to get them started. At the end of the workshop, the teams will be required to present their results to the other members. The specific books chosen have to (i) have a Starship propulsion system in them (ii) give enough information to enable a starting point for further calculations. Hence they would have to be chosen carefully.
Finally, I4IS plans to launch a new technical journal along these lines “The Journal of Spacecraft Archaeology” that also deals with spacecraft archaeology, e.g. the origin of the Discovery in 2001 which goes back to Clarke’s early books in the 1950s, as well as turning historical SF Starship concepts into concept layouts, or papers scrutinising the imaginative designs by authors. It is proposed that the pre-concepts produced from the workshop, will be evolved to papers for this new journal. A panel will be assembled to assess the best Starship pre-concept produced by the members, and that team will be awarded one of the I4IS Alpha Centauri Prizes. Note, if this works, this process can be repeated and potentially hundreds to thousands of Starship ideas from the Science fiction literature could be bought to life. From imagination to reality indeed.
We are really excited about running this workshop and seeing what science fiction ideas we can bring to life. In theory, if this process works, there are thousands of starship concepts out there that we could help bring to life in some way. If you have ideas for how we can run this workshop please contact us and tell us about them.