Aerospace Engineering Department
BS in Aerospace Engineering
This report details a conceptual design for a one-way, interstellar mission, based upon assumed technological advances over the next few hundred years. It addresses the unique challenges associated with an interstellar mission, looking at both developed and theoretical technologies. This report looks specifically at propulsion systems required to reach an exoplanet. In addition, the power, communication, and orbital trajectories are analyzed to see the differences and technological advancements necessary for future missions and the proposed interstellar mission. The destination for the interstellar mission in Gliese 581, a star system located 20.3 light years away and has 5 known planets and an unconfirmed 6th planet. There is one known planet that lies in the habitable zone, an area around a star most likely to harbor water or other forms of life, and another known planet on the edge of the habitable zone. The unconfirmed 6th planet is thought to be in the middle of the zone and makes Gliese 581 an appealing destination. Nuclear fusion using a 2H + 3He reaction is used for the power supply and the propulsion system, with an estimated transit time around two hundred years with two stages of acceleration and one stage of deceleration. The communications system makes use of the sun focal point in order to increase the gain of the transmit antenna and uses two 50 meter dishes on the spacecraft to communicated with the Earth.