Flying Close To Another Sun   48 comments

Project Icarus ~ Flying Close To Another Star


icarus2 icarus-daedalus icarus

Icarus and Daedalus in Mythology

Icarus and Daedalus were characters from ancient Greek mythology. Icarus’s father Daedalus was a famous architect, inventor and master craftsman. In order to escape imprisonment by King Minos of Crete Daedalus built wings for himself and Icarus, out of feathers, held together with wax. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, as it would melt his wings, and not too close to the sea, as it would dampen them and make it hard to fly. Caught in the thrill of flying successfully from Crete Icarus became careless. He flew too close to the sun god Helios, “touching the sky” and the wax holding his wings together melted in the heat and he fell to his death drowning in the Icranian Sea, which was named after him. 

img_01Purpose of Project Icarus 

Project Icarus is a joint initiative with the Tau Zero Foundation and British Interplanetary Society (BIS). The aim of Project Icarus is to design and power an Interstellar probe to “touch the stars” and escape the boundaries of Earth. Over 30 years has now passed since its predecessor, the Daedalus Project. This was a BIS project in late 1970’s conducted over several years, to design an interstellar probe for a flyby mission to Barnards Star. In light of scientific and technological advances the time has come to re-assess the unique concept of the Daedalus design in the hope that such studies will bring closer the day when mankind reaches out to the stars.

Without such an assessment it is difficult to realistically project when and what might be possible, and exactly what will be involved to make it possible. The Project Daedalus study will inject a much needed dose of reality into what was previously nothing more than speculation on interstellar probes/travel. And whilst still at the design stage the Project Icarus concept is its successor that Tau Zero Foundation and BIS scientists are working on.


Project Daedalus

      • Began January 1973 as a study to determine the feasibility of Interstellar Space Flight
      • It was concluded in 1978 that Interstellar flight was possible
      • It would be powered by fusion rockets using radio-active pellets (Deutrium and Helium-3)
      • And ignited by electronic beams to create plasma to push Daedalus through space
      • Helium-3’s rarity on Earth would have meant 20 years of mining from Jupiter’s atmosphere by hot air balloon – supported by robotic factories
      • Designed to accelerate for approximately 4 years until speeds 12% speed of light were achieved, then to spend the next 46 years cruising

Project Icarusheader_3

      • 5 year design study that began 30 September 2009 with aim of creating a credible interstellar probe and supporting the vision of manned space exploration. 
      • Icarus has two design power options:

  1.     Fusion Propulsion Engines:

Microwaves would be used to heat plasma to approximately 600 million degrees. This would fuse hydrogen nuclei to create Helium and the hot charged particles it produced would provide the necessary thrust. Presently the engineering necessary to set off a fusion reaction is unrealistically high, but Icarus designers are considering an experimental plasma engine ~ Vasimi. Besides demonstrating the concept it could also reduce to less than 40 days, the 9 month journey to Mars.

  2.      hypothetical_antimatter_rocket_NASA's Marshall Space Flight Cenyter Antimatter driven sail for deep space mission to the Kuiper Belt Cred Hbar TechnosLLCElizabeth laguna Antimatter Propulsion Engines:

300 X more powerful than nuclear fusion reactions. The matter~antimatter reaction occurring in the antimatter engine would be the ultimate power source for Interstellar crafts. 100% mass of an Antimatter reaction is converted into energy. This releases billions of times more energy than a similar quantity of converted rocket fuel.

        • It would travel at minimum 18 per cent of the speed of light (FAST!) to the nearest star, Epsilon Eridani, an orange sun-like star ~ 10.7 light years away
        • Communicating with it would necessitate bending radio signals around the Sun.
        • This involves a process known as Gravitational Lensing where light (radio waves) are bent around massive objects like stars and galaxies. In Icarus’s case ~ THE SUN. The same effect can be seen when light passes through a prism. At the focal point the signal is drastically amplified, making communication distance between Icarus and Earth much shorter.
        • It has however been conceded that it would not be likely to launch till the end of next century and even at the above speeds still take decades to reach its destination.


There are many different approaches necessary when striving for Inter-stellar flight ranging from the apparently simple Solar Sail to the warp drives of sci fi. Project Icarus is a half-way point taking an in-depth, no holds barred look at the “edge of projected technology in the context of a realistically demanding inter-stellar mission. It is a sequel to the seminal 1978 “Project Daedalus” of the BIS.”(Marc Millis – Icarus Consultant and Former Project Manager of the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project, March 2010, and President of the Tau Zero Foundation)

48 responses to “Flying Close To Another Sun

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  1. It seems like it has taken so long to get this far; although time is indifferent to this. I know little of the Astro science of all this, Wolfie…but it is amazing to me that we can do what we are. What I thought was most interesting is about communication. Gravitational Lensing….this does sound a bit simple process and promising.

  2. Enjoy your day…my friend.Raven xox

  3. Raven….Yes…I thought maybe WLS might like to give it a try. If they bend our communications here on spaces around the Sun we might actually get them occasionally! You enjoy your day too…and do try to avoid flying too close to the Sun! 😉

  4. Hi Wolfie, This is some amazing science. It makes me wonder what the next 50-years holds, and if it will change plans to build this Interstellar vehicle. Thanks for sharing. Smiles~

  5. Ahhh a wicked twist on the story of Daedalos & Icarus, which works well I think… Excellent use of Myth and Reality within one feature, I like this concept. Daedalus a Master Craftsman and indeed very respected, actually a descendant from the Royal Family of Cecrops, an Inventor in fact he was supposed to have built the Great Labyrinth for King Minos, in order to keep the Minotaur forever trapped within…

  6. the trouble was the King kept both Daedalos & his son Icarus prisoner in the high tower… Hence the story of the waxed wings, waxing the feathers onto their bodies to escape the tower, and as you said earlier in your script Icarus was warned by his father not to fly higher,

  7. but alas he did so and fell into the sea and drowned… A wickedly fine offering and so much more too with the added thrills of Interstella Probes and Fusion Propulsion Engines.. A nice addition to your scripts Icywolfy of the Icy Realm.. Androgoth XXx

  8. Nice Post.However, either we need to work out how to create and use worm holes, or, together with the high speed travel, we need to know how to"freeze" people for the long journeys (or, when traveling at 18%c, does time slow down enough for the people traveling to turn the 50 years into something much shorter?)

  9. Brillant Blog Wolfie.

  10. What a cracking ,informative and well researched blog…agin AF EIW. But no mention of the improbability drive wot so ever…LoooooooL. Eyes to the skies 12/08/10….not for grouse either ;)) Must trot to meet some one in the Ring of Feathers… last week…TEV FGHC LABW LABW xXx

  11. Betty…if the funding is there for projects such as Project Icarus the next 50 years or so should prove very exciting! Thank you to yourself and to all my good friends for your interest and your comments :)Androgoth…Yes! It was a rather happy coincidence that mythology and 21st century physics crossed paths so helpfully 😉 And your fuller version of the Daedalus/Icarus mythology made for a very interesting enhancement of the somewhat more concise version provided here 🙂

  12. Pat…Very interesting comment…Wormholes are theoretical, only predicted to exist by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. But if they do exist they could prove revolutionary allowing travel at speeds far faster than the speed of light. Theoretically wormholes could be made to work IF we were a more advanced civilisation

  13. capable of making use of "exotic matter" to prevent a worm hole collapsing in on itself without warning, closing the door to a return journey. They can also lead absolutely anywhere so the user would have no way of knowing their destination. For the present we are talking science fiction but for the future…who knows? 🙂

  14. Rosemary…So good to see you! You have been very quiet of late and Wolfie has missed your presence…you know it is not good for your friend Wolfie when you disappear! On the other paw…lol…it is very good for Wolfie when you leave such a lovely comment 😉 Thank you!

  15. TEV FGHC LABW LABW!!…Welcome back my grass chewing friend! I take it you have been lost in the infinite improbability drive all this time whilst AF EIW has been hooooWWWWLLLLing for you? lol 😉 Sounds like you’ve been time travelling thru the wormholes for the visit to ROF you are on now…last week!!

  16. Check out 12/08 while you’re in last week will you? And tell me what I am to see in the 12/08 skies and if it’s going to be a good night for AF EIW!! HoOOWWwwLLLing good comment thank you TEV FGHC LABW LABW!!…AF EIW xx 😉

  17. Crikey, Wolfie, I’d read about Icarus and his dad at school, and was fascinated by him flying etc, but I didn’t realize it was so interesting and dare I say – technical, I do wish I ‘d paid more attention and not talked so much. my ignorance now shows.

  18. The fusion propulsion always struck me (no pun intended) as a wastefull method. As so much of the energy is released in the opposite direction ! Now if they could get those reactions focused and directional than we are in business. ( kinda like a nuclear laser…) The Anti matter Idea has the same problem – yep big bangs ! – but harder to control and wheeey risker.

  19. After all leak a little plutonium and the space gets radio active- leak a little Antimatter ( presumably contained within Nutrino’s made earlier) and you become part of the reaction… Like my fellow inmate on planet earth Chip said to me. You puny humans are still busily converting energy to directly move mass, and thinking in %’s of C. Transmute not Transmitt is the answer ! I DID enjoy this ramble through the woods. Same again next week ?

  20. wow Timid one, after reading this…you could have knocked me down with a feather.interesting read and some of the comments are interesting also. For man to fully conquer space he must travel NOT at 18% of the speed of light. But 18% faster than the speed of light, and, have achieved the ability to use cryonics. I just can’t see it happening any other way. These are the cold facts.take care Timid one.

  21. Arlene…Hello! 😉 Did you find the pot of tea and the strawberries and cream cake I left on the blog page’s kitchen table for you?!! lol 😉 Hmm… Can’t remember touching on mythology at school myself…but maybe I was too busy dreaming my own up instead of paying attention!

  22. Simon…The LionHeart! 🙂 How considerate of you to stir from your LionHearted slumbers…lol…to take a stroll through the Wolfie blog page 🙂 Agreed…these big bangs are somthing of an issue aren’t they….very eco-unfriendly! I THINK your "fellow inmate"…lol…left an interesting link on one of my earlier blogs "Solar Sails" re energy conversion etc.

  23. However at this time Fusion and Antimatter Propulsion engines would appear to be the most viable option. But bearing in mind the study is still in its theoretical stages and technology is forever progressing, who knows what might lie around the next technological corner? What is impossible today could potentially be entirely possible tomorrow 🙂

  24. Hey Kenny! Great to see you here 😉 It is always most pleasing to Timid one to find a Kenny comment on the blog page 🙂 Thank you! Yes…we certainly have some way to go before cryobiologists figure out how to freeze a live human body and at the same time prevent irreversible cell damage during the freezing process

  25. Speed-wise…Time slows down the closer you get to the speed of light. (Time Dilation) Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity declares a law for all motion and describes what is going on with space and time. "The combined speed of any object’s motion through space and it’s motion through time is always precisely equal to the speed of light." When you increase your speed through space, you decrease your speed through time. Timid one 😉

  26. I thought that law was in error.Travelling at c would ‘freeze’ the OBSERVATION of time. Dai laffin & I chucked this one around for days. I proposed the travel from a to b would still take A time (albeit not very much) we would observe it as (virtually) instantaneous. Therefore time and c are related but not BOUND together. He debated time was a construction & not a physical/meta physical item of any kind. At that point we gave up. I have a feeling it will all become clear one morning ……

  27. Simon….Everything is travelling through space and time. Adding the total movement through both space and time always equals light speed. Always.Since light waves use all of their motion to travel through space at Light Speed they have absolutely no motion through Time.

  28. Every photon that has ever been produced exists in an ageless state. (To us the light seems to move through time but to the photon it is standing still. This is one of the seemingly odd realisations of Einsteins Theory of Relativity) The universe ages but light does not…

  29. But light behaves as wave AND particle. Therefore it is still a bit of an unknown ‘quantity’ …..

  30. Photon’s can be created (light bulb) or at least the energy changed from one thing to another… IT ( whatever it is) travels at a varying speed in relation to it’s surrounding enviroment (approx 25mph in Einstein.Bosun condisate- or wavicle soup). Are you suggesting the photon is still traveling at c but it’s carrier is not?? How can light (a form of E mostly) change into differring E in no time – to quote a local farmer " It down’t seem natural to I " ….

  31. Perhaps I’m posing the wrong questions? Meanwhile I’ll have a nap – increase my mass at sub c therefore E will be greater ZZzzzz

  32. Hi Wolfie, just got into Spaces again, you and your friend Simon have made me feel a right ignoramus, with all yourtechnical and scientific debate.

  33. PS did enjoy it through, you live and learn

  34. …………..(¯`v´¯)………….(¯`(♥)´¯)……………(_.^._)………………..I/ ¸.ª……………..“ªI ¸.ª“˜¨………………..I/ ¸.ª¨…(¯`v´¯)……………..“ªI ¸.ª“˜¨.(¯`(♥)´¯)………..¯¨˜“ª.I/´ª¸……/(_.^._)……“ª¤….¤ ª“˜¨¸.¤ª“/˜¨¨¯……¯¨˜“ª¤.¸°¸.¤ª“˜¨¨¸°¸.¤ª“˜¨¨¯——..¤ª“˜¨¨¯¯¨¨˜“ª¤….¤ª“˜¨¨¯¯¨¨

    ✔※※【կﻪlռıչ ĸսгƬ】※※✔
  35. Simon…Be back asap to deal with you!! Otherwise I shall be bending my E’s and c’s "around another sun" till 2am again! E = mc²… E = m… E =…!! Now! You should know better than most how important ye ole beauty snooze is ;)) ZZZZzzzzzz 😉

  36. Hi Rosemary 😉 Glad to see you were able to escape our WLS padded cell and outwit the WLS team!…Re tech and sci debate…I was trying to keep it simple! It’s Simon the LionHeart who’s making it complicated!! lol…or that’s my story and I’m sticking to it same way as the WLS strait jacket sticks to me!! 😉

  37. Eğer kurt kardeş teşekkürler! Güzel bir çiçek :)Ve sen çok cesursayfasını ziyaret etmek için! ;))Çok naziksinizSeni çok seviyorum kardeş kurt! ;)))Allah sizi korusunBu yeni hafta…Buz Kurt :)))

  38. Hello my Wolfie friend. This blog highlights the improbable becoming the highly probable out of necessity. I join the ranks with Rosemary as Physics never was my strong point, but this does not detract from the underlying message in your finely crafted blog. Mankind is steadily making science fiction, science fact.

  39. I also wonder if life in Space for many generations will any less amazing than walking this beautiful planet we call Home. Have a good week and I will catch up with you when I get back from my inter county travels. ;o) xx

  40. As long as we have memories yesterday remains..As long as we have hope tomorrow awaits.. As long as we have Friendship each day is never a waste..Hugs Night Lady

  41. Just saying Hi Wolfie, when Spaces lets me

  42. .Hi my dear friend….thanks so much for your kind words….and for checking on me…. this is an awesome blog… you are so smart. Sounds Enthralling..Hugs

  43. "Hi Rosemary!!" Good of spaces to let you in! I did threaten it with a dreadful fate if it didn’t…but it responded by telling IE to restrict my access 3 times in one week and not allow me online at all!! Time to install 2nd browser I think…IE clearly is not recognising who’s in charge round here!! May your WLS problems be beaten into submission this weekend! 😉

  44. Sherrilynn! How lovely to see you! And thank you for your kind comment 🙂 But most importantly it is good to see you have returned to Spaces and you are ok. Icewolfie hugs 🙂

  45. I do wish I’d paid more attention in school now. very interesting, though like Rosemary, way beyond me, I’ll stick to training dogs. LOL

  46. Arlene…they didn’t teach me that at school! lol 😉 Something you learn when you’ve finished the day’s dog training and got your K9 charges happily kennelled down for a while! I didn’t start "paying attention" till I left school and went to college lol 😉 Now…where’s that Simon The LionHeart got to I wonder…bending his Es and c’s around Facebook I expect…."SiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIIIIImmmmmmmmMMMMMMMMoooooooooNNNN!!!!"

  47. Simon…. Flipping back to the Relativity questions you posed…in response to the law "being in error"…Einstein’s theories of both special and general relativity have been confirmed to be accurate to a very high degree over recent years, and the data has been shown to substantiate many major predictions; the most famous being the solar eclipse of 1919.

  48. It also predicted the velocity at which two neutron stars orbiting one another will move towards each other. When this fact was first recognised, general relativity proved itself accurate to more than a trillionth of a percent precision, making it one of the best authenticated principles in all of physics…Now where are yooooouuuuuuuu Simon The LionHeart??! Get yourself back over from “The Darkside” please… Don’t make me come over there and fetch you!! 😉

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