SSI Exotic Propulsion 2017 NIAC Phase I Award

SSI President Gary Hudson

From Space Studies Institute President Gary C Hudson:


I’m very pleased to announce that an SSI proposal, under the leadership of Principal Investigator Heidi Fearn at CalState University Fullerton, has been selected for a Phase I 2017 NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program award.

Several of our colleagues (José Rodal, Paul March, Bruce Long, Nolan van Rossum and Marshall Eubanks) are Co-PIs or consultants. Prof. Jim Woodward will also consult on the project. SSI will administratively manage the grant for the team.

The Project Summary from our proposal:

We propose to study the implementation of an innovative thrust producing technology for use in NASA missions involving in space main propulsion. Mach Effect Thruster (MET) propulsion is based on peer-reviewed, technically credible physics. Mach effects are transient variations in the rest masses of objects that simultaneously experience accelerations and internal energy changes. They are predicted by standard physics where Mach’s principle applies – as discussed in peer-reviewed papers spanning 20 years and a recent book, Making Starships and Stargates: the Science of Interstellar Transport and Absurdly Benign Wormholes published by Springer-Verlag. These effects have the revolutionary capability to produce thrust without the irreversible ejection of propellant, eliminating the need to carry propellant as required with most other propulsion systems.

Our initial Phase 1 effort will have three tasks, two experimental and one analytical:

1. Improvement of the current laboratory-scale devices, in order to provide long duration thrust at levels required for practical propulsion applications.

2. Design and development of a power supply and electrical systems to provide feedback and control of the input AC voltage, and resonant frequency, that determine the efficiency of the MET.

3. Improve theoretical thrust predictions and build a reliable model of the device to assist in perfecting the design. Predict maximum thrust achievable by one device and how large an array of thrusters would be required to send a probe, of size 1.5m diameter by 3m, of total mass 1245Kg including a modest 400 Kg of payload, a distance of 8 light years (ly) away.

Ultimately, once proven in flight and after more development, these thrusters could be used for primary mission propulsion, opening up the solar system and making interstellar missions a reality. The MET device is not a rocket, it does not expel fuel mass, and does not suffer from the velocity restriction of rockets. Freedom from the need to expel propellant means very high velocities might be achievable simply by providing electrical power and adequate heat rejection for the drive system. A mission to Planet 9 is possible in the near future using RTG power and thruster arrays. A future goal would be interstellar travel to the nearest exoplanet, within 5-9 Ly distance. A mission of this type might take 20 or more years using the MET thruster. Although the nearest exoplanet is 14 or so ly distance, more Earth-like planets are being discovered daily.

This aerospace concept is an exciting TRL 1 technology, ready to take the next step to providing propellantless propulsion, first in incremental NASA smallsat missions, but later enabling revolutionary new deep space exploratory capabilities beyond anything achievable by conventional chemical, nuclear or electric propulsion systems. This unexplored opportunity has been uniquely developed by our co-Principal Investigators, breaking new ground in both science and engineering. Finally, it is technically credible – if bold and unconventional – and is fully consistent with modern physics, having been demonstrated over ten years of careful laboratory demonstration and investigation.

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts

For more information on SSI’s Exotic Propulsion Initiative, please see its SSI Program Page.


Can you find this quote?

G. Harry Stine classics
G. Harry Stine classics

There is a sentence in a cornerstone Space book that says something like: ‘I hope someone reviews this book, for good or for bad, because the worst thing that can happen to any book is that it gets no reviews at all. Even bad reviews can lead other people to read a book and find out for themselves whether the content is right or wrong.’

That is not the exact quote but it is the idea.

I thought it was from G. Harry Stine; Obviously it can’t be from any edition of his “Handbook of Model Rocketry” which has lead thousands of people into careers in the Space Industry, as that one has gotten uncountable reviews over the years.  Even SSI SA and former SSI Executive Director Gregg Maryniak’s new ebook “Fearless Experiments with Microcomputers” gives that Stine a glowing mention.

Perhaps it was in “The Space Enterprise” – but that one has received accolades and the mentions from Gene Roddenberry and Robert A. Heinlein alone had the weight of worlds all by themselves.

So, was it “The Third Industrial Revolution“? – sometimes called “The Other High Frontier” – in which Stine gratefully acknowledged the contributions of major Space names including Krafft A. Ehricke, Dandridge M. Cole, Dr. Jerry Pournelle, Dr. Peter Vajk, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke along with many “SSI names” including Dr. Peter Glaser, Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, Keith Henson, Gerald Driggers, Gary Hudson and others.

Or was it “Confrontation in Space“? The one that touches all of the High Frontier concept aspects along with an eerie insider view of the darker sides of Human Expansion – that book’s featuring the introduction by Dr. Herman Khan means it was definitely not ignored by people in the know (and shouldn’t be – even if you are a person who doesn’t like Stine’s professional opinion that “The military implications of the L-4 and L-5 libration points make it unlikely that they will be used as the sites for large space colonies as envisioned by Gerard K. O’Neill. No politician or diplomat on Earth could tolerate a large space facility with a population of 10,000 people that occupies such a militarily strategic place in the Earth-Moon system. It’s a threat that cannot be ignored.”)

Except for “Handbook of Model Rocketry” and the popular mass market “Living in Space” none of these must-read Stine books on the technologies and ramifications of Space Manufacturing have been Kindle-ized so a simple search of your digital collection likely won’t bring up the location of that quote, but if you know the one we’re looking for please let us know.

It’s a deep quote that’s worth taking to heart so we’d like to get it right. I really thought it was a Stine so it might be in any of the ones mentioned and perhaps my eyes just aren’t seeing right now.

If you have not personally read these Classics of the Space Industry perhaps you could get your own copies and do the search?  I have a strong feeling that it will pay off for you even if you don’t find that particular sentence.

Oh, and we hope that you will review them too ;-)

New G-Lab Program pages

“She had her fourth birthday last week,” Halvorsen answered proudly. “Children grow fast in this low gravity. But they don’t age so quickly – they’ll live longer than we do.”

Floyd stared in fascination at the self-assured little lady, noting the graceful carriage and the unusually delicate bone structure. “It’s nice to meet you again Diana,” he said. Then something – perhaps sheer curiosity, perhaps politeness – impelled him to add: “Would you like to go to Earth?”

Her eyes widened with astonishment; then she shook her head.

“It’s a nasty place; you hurt yourself when you fall down. Besides there are too many people.”

So here, Floyd told himself, is the first generation of the Spaceborn; there would be more of them in the years to come. Though there was sadness in this thought, there was also a great hope. When Earth was tamed and tranquil, and perhaps a little tired, there would still be scope for those who loved freedom, for the tough pioneers, the restless adventurers. But their tools would not be ax and gun and canoe and wagon; they would be nuclear power plant and plasma drive and hydroponic farm. The time was fast approaching when Earth, like all mothers, must say farewell to her children.”

- 2001, Chapter 10 “Clavius Base”

There is absolutely no proof that a gravity lower than Earth’s would do no more than alter bone structure making humans elegantly delicate and tall.

There is absolutely no proof that living in a lower gravity would make for longer lives.

Both ideas have been common in even the best science fiction forever, but there is no proof that either would actually be the case.

2001 is a great story, and above all Clarke’s Dr. Floyd paraphrasing Tsiolkovsky still has absolute merit; the Spaceborn will be coming eventually. It sure would be nice, though, if some space agency or company that says that it wants to help Humans live on planets with low gravities would start doing some actual research on generations of vertebrates before the first Spaceborn is on its inevitable way.

The cost to their entire program after just one child is born not quite right would likely be far, far higher than the cost of putting a multi-G test habitat in operation as early as possible.

This is the fundamental reason for SSI’s G-Lab Project.

For more information, please see the growing collection of resources on the new SSI G-Lab Program page.

[[March 29th update! just added to G-Lab: SSI SA Peter Diamandis on Reconsidering Artificial Gravity For Space Habitats!!]]

New on the SSI YouTube Channel: President Gary at the SVSC

SSI President Gary Hudson
SSI President Gary Hudson

Gravity: The Key to Life and Propulsion on The High Frontier.  Enabling Permanent Human Settlement On The High Frontier.

February 27th 2017 Space Studies Institute President Gary C Hudson spoke at the Silicon Valley Space Center/AIAA Tech Talk meeting in Santa Clara, California about two important SSI programs: G-Lab, the free flying reduced gravity spinner co-orbited with ISS and EPI, supporting fundamental R&D for true “Space Drives.”

It was a fascinating night and we hope that all SSI Associates will make the time to enjoy this video.

Many thanks to Dr. Sean Casey and Rick Kwan of the Silicon Valley Space Center, the AIAA-SF and the Santa Clara Hacker Dojo.

Technology for Human Space Settlement