Since early 2016, the Interstellar Research Centre through its parent company Stellar Engines Ltd, has been working in collaboration with the Breakthrough Initiatives foundation, based in San Francisco, California, USA. This is on Project Starshot, an initiative to send a Gram-scale probe to the stars in the next two decades. The probe would be accelerated by around 10,000 g in a matter of minutes using a large ground based ~100 GW laser array up to 60,000 km/s or 0.2c. It would then take around 20 years to reach its interstellar destination (e.g. Proxima Centauri) and then return the images back to the Solar System in a matter of a few years using a kW peak power optical laser communication systems.

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For the Project Starshot a set of 19 technical physics and engineering challenges were defined for Project Starshot, to include one policy issue.

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The main area of research for which we have been involved is in the subject of interstellar dust and charged particle bombardment on the spacecraft. In addition to general issues of systems architecture. The Interstellar Research Centre continues to collaborate with the Breakthrough Initiatives on Project Starshot.

References:

  1. R L Forward, Roundtrip Interstellar Travel using Laser-Pushed Lightsails, Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, Vol.21, pp.187-195, 1984.

  2. R L Forward, Starwisp: An Ultra-light Interstellar Probe, J.Spacecraft, 22, 345, 1985.

  3. G Landis, Beamed Energy Propulsion for Practical Interstellar Flight, JBIS, 52, 420, 1999.

  4. G Landis, Microwave-Pushed Interstellar Sail: Starwisp Revisited, Presented Paper AIAA-2000-3337, 36th Joint Propulsion Conference, 2000.

  5. P Lubin, A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight, JBIS, 2016.

  6. Z Manchester, A Loeb, Stability of a Light Sail Riding on a Laser Beam, arXiv, 29 Sept 2016.

  7. T Hoang et al., The Interaction of Relativistic Spacecrafts with the Interstellar Medium, arXiV, Submitted 18 August 2016.