Principal Investigators: Andreas Hein and Kelvin F. Long
The committee's main technical project is Project Dragonfly, an initiative to design a laser-sail propelled vehicle. Project Dragonfly is a feasibility study for an interstellar mission, conducted by small, distributed spacecraft, propelled primarily by laser sails.
Project Dragonfly is a feasibility study for an interstellar mission, conducted by small, distributed spacecraft, propelled primarily by laser sails. The spacecraft shall be capable of reaching the target star system within a century and be able to decelerate. We believe that such a mission can be conducted with technology available by 2024-2034 as well as a space infrastructure, available by 2050.
The competition's main objective was to identify innovative mission architectures that are feasible in terms of required technologies as well as required resources. The final design reports of the teams would cover all areas, which are relevant for returning scientific data from such a mission: instruments, communication, laser sail design, power supply, secondary structure, deceleration propulsion etc. Furthermore, the technological, as well as economic, feasibility of the architecture would be assessed by the teams.
The results from the competition serve as a basis for future technology development for actually realising such a mission.
The competition was conducted in the context of the Alpha Centauri Prize awards. The winning team would be the first to receive a newly-developed design award. A total prize purse of £1,000 was set up. The competition was successfully completed in July 2015 to inform the first phase of the design studies.
Participation in the competition was limited to teams affiliated to a university and must predominantly consist of students and/or researchers. Non-university members could participate if affiliated with a university team.
Participating teams were to have expertise in one or several of the following areas:
- Space mission analysis and design
- Structural mechanics
- Laser physics
- Embedded systems
- Networked systems
- Communication engineering
Detailed design requirements were submitted to the teams which successfully completed the qualification problem set. See "Application".
The designs were evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:
- Technical soundness:
- Are the physics and engineering right?
- Technological feasibility:
- Is it likely that the technology is available in the next 10-20 years?
- Economic feasibility:
- Are the resources needed for the mission reasonable?
- Does the design exploit synergies with future space infrastructure?
- Is there a reasonable chance that the mission can be conducted by 2050?
- Are there approaches to drastically increase the scientific return of such a mission without compromising feasibility?
The designs were evaluated by an expert jury.
The competition was run until July 2015. Some of the images from the design reports are shown below. A gorgeous piece of artwork was also commissioned from the world-renowned space artist David A Hardy and depicts a laser sail system travelling through space.
- Cairo University, Egypt
- University of California Santa Barbara, USA
- Technical University of Munich, Germany - announced as the 1st place winner of the competition
- CranSEDS (Cranfield University-UK, Skoltech-Russia, UPS-France)
Andreas Hein received his master's degree in aerospace engineering at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen and is currently working towards a PhD degree at the same university in the area of space systems engineering. He did part of his research at MIT. During his Master's, he spent a semester abroad at the Institut Superieur de l'Aeronautique et de l'Espace in Toulouse as well as at the European Space Agency's Strategy and Architecture Office, working on future lunar infrastructures. He is a recipient of a doctoral scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD, a student member of the International Honor Society for Systems Engineering Omega Alpha Association, and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society.
Funded by the Fulbright scholarship, Dan received his M.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering in 2013 from the Georgia Institute of Technology and is currently working towards his German diploma at the European Space Agency. His specialisation is in advanced airbreathing and space propulsion systems as well as atmospheric reentry. Due to his personal interest, he also has experience with systems engineering and group management. In 2013/2014 he successfully led a team at the University of Stuttgart in the International Mars Inspiration Engineering Design Contest.
Martin is received his master's degree in aerospace engineering at the Technical University of Munich and is currently a PhD student at the Institute of Astronautics at the same university. His area of expertise is small satellites.
We have assembled a world-class advisory team with renowned experts in each of the relevant domains such as Les Johnson (NASA), Prof. Gergory Matloff, Prof. Bernd Dachwald, and others. Competition teams will have the unique opportunity to get advise and feedback from these experts.
To help fund the prize purse, i4is ran a successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $10,000. This money was also used to facilitate members of each of the university affiliated teams to attend a workshop in London in July 2015. We hereby list our Kickstarter supporters and thank them for their kind generosity and their outstanding commitments towards the vision of starships in our lifetime.
Bruno Boutot, Olivier Depin, Bogdan Drema, Steve, Abby & Sophie Fisher, Ahmed Jaber
Laura A Burns, David A Hardy
Dr Steve Battle, C Earnshaw, Sam Harrison, Andrew Lyktey, Florian Marmuse, Dr Richard Obousy, Mark Swinney, Remco Timmermans, Jaime Unson, Alexander Wright
Connor Barber, René de Rooij, James Dellow, Alain Gaeremynck, Terry Henley, Wojciech Jacyk, Ulli Langer, Dorcas Phillips, Luke Rasborsek, Austin Tate
Randy Chung, Julian Clark, R J A Duthie, Adrian Field, David E Fields, Robert Freeland, David Gullen, T R Jacobs, Mike Mongo, Sue Morris, Keith Rowley, Sophia Sigl, Paul Smeddle
Travis Brashears, Dominik Mayer, James L Rohrich, L P Shoulder (Daedalus), The Starflyer, Robert Swinney, Nick Williams, Julian Zawistowski
Andrew Higgins, Rochelle, Vijaya Sankar, Andreas Tziolas, Chris Welch, Brent D Ziarnick
John I Davies, Mr Hector Geoffrey Dokopoulos Hamilton
Richard Dallaway, Angelo Genovese, Kelvin F Long
Claudio Bottacchini, Mike Brashears, Robert G Kennedy III, PE, Abigail Ochello, Graham Symmonds
GEO Space Limted, Stefan Zeidler
THANK YOU TO YOU ALL FROM I4IS & THE PROJECT DRAGONFLY TEAMS
Publications (Peer-reviewed journal articles)
Perakis, N., Schrenk, L. E., Gutsmiedl, J., Koop, A., & Losekamm, M. J. (2016). Project Dragonfly: A feasibility study of interstellar travel using laser-powered light sail propulsion. Acta Astronautica, 129, 316-324.