Project Icarus is a volunteer theoretical engineering study to design an interstellar spacecraft. The project was launched on September 30th 2009 at the British Interplanetary Society HQ in London.
The purpose of Project Icarus is four-fold:
1. To motivate a new generation of scientists in designing space missions that can explore beyond our solar system.
2. To generate greater interest in the real term prospects for interstellar precursor missions that are based on credible science.
3. To design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission in the coming centuries so as to allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and to provide an assessment of the maturity of fusion based space propulsion for future precursor missions.
4. To allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and provide an assessment of the maturity of fusion based space propulsion for future precursor missions.
Project Icarus was inspired by Project Daedalus, which ran from 1973 to 1978. Project Daedalus, a British Interplanetary Society project, concluded thatinterstellar travel is feasible. Specifically, Daedalus demonstrated that it is possible, by using current or credible extrapolations of existing technology, to launch an interstellar probe that could reach another solar system on timescales of a normal human lifetime.
The primary objectives of Project Icarus is to produce a completed set of technical reports which describe the engineering layout, functionality, physics, operation, expected performance and mission profile of an unmanned interstellar probe according to the requirements set out in the Project Icarus Terms of Reference document.
Project Icarus is an international project and we are slowly attempting to recruit representatives from all the permanently inhabited continents. We believe that humankind’s first interstellar mission will be a global effort and we are building a team that is representative of this.
In ancient days two aviators procured to themselves wings. Daedalus flew safely through the middle air and was duly honoured on his landing. Icarus soared upwards to the sun till the wax melted which bound his wings and his flight ended in fiasco. In weighing their achievements, there is something to be said for Icarus. The classical authorities tell us that he was only “doing a stunt”, but I prefer to think of him as the man who brought to light a serious constructional defect in the flying-machines of his day. So, too, in Science.
Cautious Daedalus will apply his theories where he feels confident they will safely go; but by his excess of caution their hidden weaknesses remain undiscovered. Icarus will strain his theories to the breaking-point till the weak joints gape. For the mere adventure? Perhaps partly; this is human nature. But if he is destined not yet to reach the sun and solve finally the riddle of its constitution, we may at least hope to learn from his journey some hints to build a better machine.
– Sir Arthur Eddington “Stars and Atoms”