The potential of nuclear power as a propulsion mechanism that would allow for interstellar flight has been recognized since the first half of the 20th century. The idea was initially proposed by Stanislaw Ulam at Los Alamos in 1947 and then, in 1958, Ted Taylor initiated Project Orion.
The idea behind Project Orion is to detonate a nuclear charge at some distance from a vehicle. The detonation creates an expanding plasma wave which transfers momentum to the vehicle by hitting a pusher plate. This detonation process is repeated, and the rocket achieves thrust. In 1965, the Test Ban Treaty, which prohibits the detonation of nuclear devices in space, put a stop on the development of the nuclear pulse rocket.
Several years later, Alan Bond of the British Interplanetary Society, believed that the time was right to investigate the feasibility of an interstellar mission. He discussed the idea with members of the Society and Project Daedalus was born.
Project Daedalus began on 10th January 1973 and the final reports were published 15th May 1978 taking just over 64 months or over 5 years. Approximately 10,000 man hours were used by 13 core designers and several additional consultants.
In essence, Project Daedalus was a feasibility study for an interstellar mission, using 1970’s capabilities and credible extrapolations for near-future technology. One of the major objectives was to establish whether interstellar flight could be realized within established science and technology.
The conclusion of the report was that Interstellar flight is feasible.
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