Breakthrough Propulsion Study: Assessing Interstellar Flight Challenges and ProspectsProgress toward developing an evaluation process for interstellar propulsion and power options is described. The goal is to contrast the challenges, mission choices, and emerging prospects for propulsion and power, to identify which prospects might be more advantageous and under what circumstances, and to identify which technology details might have greater impacts. Unlike prior studies, the infrastructure expenses and prospects for breakthrough advances are included. This first year's focus is on determining the key questions to enable the analysis. Accordingly, a work breakdown structure to organize the information and associated list of variables is offered. A flow diagram of the basic analysis is presented, as well as more detailed methods to convert the performance measures of disparate propulsion methods into common measures of energy, mass, time, and power. Other methods for equitable comparisons include evaluating the prospects under the same assumptions of payload, mission trajectory, and available energy. Missions are divided into three eras of readiness (precursors, era of infrastructure, and era of breakthroughs) as a first step before proceeding to include comparisons of technology advancement rates. Final evaluation "figures of merit" are offered. Preliminary lists of mission architectures and propulsion prospects are provided.
Marc G. Millis (Tau Zero Foundation Broomfield, CO)
Greason, Jeff (Tau Zero Foundation Broomfield, CO)
Stevenson, Rhonda (Tau Zero Foundation Broomfield, CO)