Project Icarus was founded in 2009. Work initially started on launching the project in 2008 but it was officially launched at a “Daedalus after 30 Years” symposium at the British Interplanetary Society in London. The idea was launched to redesign the 1970s Project Daedalus probe under the name of Project Icarus. There are four stated reasons behind the creation of Project Icarus.

  1. To design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission in the coming centuries.

  2. To allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and provide an assessment of the maturity of fusion based space propulsion for future precursor missions.

  3. To generate greater interest in the real term prospects for interstellar precursor missions that are based on credible science.

  4. To motivate a new generation of scientists to be interested in designing space missions that go beyond our solar system.

Daedalus Starship (Adrian Mann)

Daedalus Starship (Adrian Mann)

The project itself had some design constraints to help guide the project towards a solution:

  1. To design an unmanned probe that is capable of delivering useful scientific data about the target star, associated planetary bodies, solar environment and the interstellar medium.

  2. The spacecraft must use current or near future technology and be designed to be launched as soon as is credibly determined.

  3. The spacecraft must reach its stellar destination within as fast a time as possible, not exceeding a century and ideally much sooner.

  4. The spacecraft must be designed to allow for a variety of target stars.

  5. The spacecraft propulsion must be mainly fusion based (i.e. Daedalus).

  6. The spacecraft mission must be designed so as to allow some deceleration for increased encounter time at the destination.

Some of the earlier papers which defined the project are referenced below.

Since the project was initiated it has resulted in numerous different starship design concepts. The Interstellar Research Centre is focussed on two of them, which is the Resolution and Endeavour concepts. Resolution is a single stage engine design that reverse thrusts into full orbital insertion at the target destination.

Project Icarus Starship Resolution Concept Vehicle Design

Project Icarus Starship Resolution Concept Vehicle Design

However, one of the problems with the Resolution design was its 15 year boost time, and due to issues such as engineering fatigue it was decided that this was not viable. For this reason the design moved to a 5 star engine bell configuration. But then after significant discussions and calculations on radiation issues, it moved to a 4 engine bell configuration and this is now frozen. Work is now ongoing on moving the design towards a credible closure.

Project Icarus Starship Endeavour Concept Vehicle Design

Project Icarus Starship Endeavour Concept Vehicle Design

References:

  1. K. F. Long, M. Fogg, R. Obousy, A. Tziolas, A. Mann, R. Osborne, A. Presby, Project Icarus: Son of Daedalus - Flying Closer to Another Star, JBIS, 62, pp.403 - 414, 2009.

  2. K. F. Long, Project Icarus: Project Programme Document (PPD) Overview Project Plan Covering Period 2009 - 2014. Incorporating Major Task Plan For Phase III Concept Design Covering Period May 2010 - April 2011.

  3. K. F. Long, R. Obousy and A. Tziolas, Technical Note - Project Icarus: The Origins and Aims of the Study, JBIS, 64, PP.88 - 91, 2011.

  4. K. F. Long, Project Icarus: Development of Fusion Based Space Propulsion for Interstellar Missions, JBIS, 69, pp.289 - 294, 2016.