Project LONGSHOT – II ~ The Next Generation

posted by Divya Shankar on March 29, 2013

What is Project Longshot II – The Next Generation (TNG)?

  • Project LONGSHOT-II, The Next Generation is a students’ project of ICARUS INTERSTELLAR which is aiming to revisit, update and redesign the original Project LONGSHOT. Project Longshot was an US Naval Academy’s NASA/USRA University advanced design program project report for 1987-88 carried out by seven first class midshipmen in the Aerospace Engineering Department. Project Longshot presented a preliminary design of unmanned probe taking 100 years to reach Alpha Centauri with the objectives to gather information on properties of the interstellar medium, characteristics of Alpha Centauri System and Astrometry.  



 First, Project Longshot was completed 25 YEARS ago. Since Longshot was designed advancements in science and technology allow a redesign of the design and mission. Today is the age of Curiosity and many other great spacecraft doing wonderful job in deep space. Today, we students of Icarus Interstellar are reviewing the Mission with respect to the current and future technology of the 21st Century.  Research on interstellar flight should be renewed generation after generation until we realize it. The major objective of Longshot II TNG is to examine and correct the shortcomings of the original Project Longshot and redesign the mission adding necessary and advanced technologies in achieving interstellar flight.

The Pros and Cons of Original Longshot –

Major Pros –

The orbit calculations for the initial and final phases are calculated well. The payload and instruments are very well selected. The interstellar trajectory design used the correct concepts, such as the turn-around point and need for main drive ignition. A well explained attitude determination and control system is provided. 3- Axis Stabilization, Spin Stabilization, Magnetic Stabilization and Gravity gradient stabilization techniques are used in spacecraft attitude control.  The star trackers use the power from the generators drawing energy from the propulsion system’s waste heat indicating good power handling.

Major Cons –

The assumed mission time of 100+ years for the craft to reach the Alpha Centauri system seems excessive. Thus the Longshot II team is researching how to reduce flight time of the spacecraft to about 50 years. The original calculation on Fuel Consumption, Mass Ratios and Cruise Velocity is incorrect. Recalculation using their figures shows that, the actual mission would have taken much longer time to reach the star or it would have required much more fuel. The final design also lacked the ignition system and exhaust bell, which should have looked much like the “Project Daedalus” Main Engine. Their confusing α and β Centauri for Alpha Centauri A and B would send the probe to a totally different star system.

     Advances in antimatter storage implies that there is no limit to how long antiparticles can be stored. So antimatter propulsion should be reconsidered. However there is the problem of creating the antiparticles in the first place. They could be mined from space, from antiprotons trapped in planetary magnetospheres, or some new technology could be developed to increase antiparticle production efficiency.

The power generation and the power requirement do not match. The original design considered only the communication laser requirement and not the instruments to explore the system. More efficient laser technologies can be implemented than the suggested ones. The design of essential radiators for thermal control is not efficient. The radiators should be redesigned considering its mass and efficiency.


Considering all these Major Pros and Cons, the Longshot II TNG group is working towards minimizing the errors as much as possible and add newer technologies to give a new shape to the original Longshot Project.


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4 Responses to Project LONGSHOT – II ~ The Next Generation

  1. Marc Guillot says:

    I don’t see anyone talking about sending fuel ahead, it’s really so difficult to do ?

    Current rockets have several phases, and they drop them when used. Why don’t we make an interstellar spaceship meeting its phases (fuel containers) on-flight instead of carrying them ?.

    To refuel on flight you only need to match positions and speeds. If you carefully plan your trip, you can send your fuel on the necessary advance, to reach the meeting point and speed using a low acceleration (burning little fuel).

    I know it will be much more expensive, because you have to launch several fusion-powered rockets to advance the fuel, but it will allow your main mission to reach its goal in far less time (eventually enabling manned missions).

    This is not possible or only is discarded for its prize ?.

  2. david battson says:

    Using antimatter is a thing of the far future if at all and we should concentrate on fusion power as a lot of money is being spent on funding Earth based power generators – European Torus – with a big spin off for space use when the problems are solved.

  3. The original longshot design called for mining helium 3 from Jupiter. Why is this necessary? You could much more easily obtain helium 3 from the gas plume behind Venus using an electrostatic ramscoop — and pick up free hydrogen and oxygen there too, to provision your starship with, eliminating the need to produce it on earth and lift it into orbit. Antimatter catalyzed fission or fusion is a nice idea, but right now we have the ability to store one antiproton for ten minutes. Storing a bunch of them for fifty years?

  4. Hi Charles, what is the density of helium 3 in the Venus gas plume? If it is too low this excellent idea will not work. The ship will not need extra oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen is extremely difficult to fuse, and oxygen is not used at all. Anyway, it’s easier to lift from Earth than to go to Venus and bring back Oxygen and hydrogen (unless you are building the ship in Venus orbit. But Helium 3 is another matter. Again, there may not be enough. Electrostatic ramscoops do not exist yet, so they are really as much a problem as the antiproton storage.

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