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Advanced Space Propulsion

Concepts for Interstellar Travel

Gregory V. Meholic


HR 8799
140 LY


Updated 2/22/2010
Presentation Objectives and Caveats
 Provide a high-level, “evolutionary”, information-only overview of
various propulsion technology concepts that, with sufficient
development, may lead mankind to the stars.
 Only candidate concepts for a vehicle‟s primary interstellar
propulsion system will be discussed.
 No attitude control
 No earth-to-orbit launch
 No electric
 No sail-type
 No beamed energy
 No bomb ejection
 None of the following will be given, assumed or implied:
 Recommendations on specific mission designs
 Developmental timelines or cost estimates
 Not all propulsion options will be discussed – that would be impossible!
 Estimated NASA TRL and program status may be given.


1. The Ultimate Space Mission

2. The Solar System and Beyond
3. Challenges of Human Star Flight
4. Propulsion System Metrics for Interstellar Travel
5. Conventional Mass Ejection Propulsion Systems
 State-of-the-Art
 Possible Improvements
6. Alternative Conventional Systems
 Nuclear Fission
 Nuclear Fusion
 Matter/Antimatter
 Other Concepts
7. Physics-Based Concepts
 Definitions
 Space-Time Warp Drives
 Gravity-Inertia-Electromagnetic
 Alternate Dimension / Hyperspace
8. Experimental Programs
9. Concluding Remarks
Chapter 1:
The Ultimate Space Mission

The Ultimate Space Mission

For humans to travel to the stars and return to

Earth within a “reasonable fraction” (around 15
years) of a human lifetime.

 Why venture beyond our Solar System?

 Because we have to - humans love to explore!!!
 Explore the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud
– Theoretical home to long-period comets/
 Explore the nature of the interstellar medium and its
influence on the solar system (and vice versa).
– Magnetic fields, low-energy galactic cosmic rays, composition, etc.
 Explore or better observe nearby solar systems (e.g. Alpha
 Look for other earth-like planets.
 Search for life beyond our local region of the galaxy.
Chapter 2:
The Solar System and Beyond

Interstellar Measurements
Interstellar discussions require large units of measurement.
 Speed of Light, c: 670,616,630 miles/hour
(in vacuum) 186,282 miles/sec
983,571,056 feet/sec
~ 3 x 108 meters/sec
 Astronomical Unit, AU: Mean distance from Sun to Earth
92,955,807 miles (1 AU)
~ 8.32 light-minutes
~ 0.0000158 light years
 Light Year, LY: Distance light travels in one year
~ 5.88 x 1012 miles
~ 63,241 AU

Earth Moon
235,184 miles, 0.00253 AU, 1.26 seconds
Solar System and Interstellar Medium
Pioneer 10 Voyager 1 New Horizons
Launched 1972 Launched 1977 Launched 2006
Distance: ~100 AU Distance: 112.1 AU Distance: 9.6 AU
Speed: 27590 mph Speed: 38350 mph Speed: 51449* mph
(2.6 AU/yr = (0.0057% c) (*Jupiter flyby
0.0041% c) 0.0077% c)

Pioneer 11 and Voyager 2 not shown

Half-way point to
Alpha Centauri
We are (134,070 AU)
HERE (12/09)

(6/08) (12/05)

~271,000 AU

Possible Destinations
With the 15-year mission proposed, where could we go if travel
at light speed were possible?
(Light Years) Name
0.00 Sun (Sol)
4.24 Proxima Centauri (Alpha Centauri C)
4.36 Alpha Centauri (A&B)
5.96 Barnard's Star (Proxima Ophiuchi)
7.78 Proxima Leonis (Wolf 359, CN Leonis)
8.29 Proxima Ursae Majoris (Lalande 21185)
8.58 Sirius (A&B, Alpha Canis Majoris)
8.73 Proxima Ceti (A&B, Luyten 726-8, UV & BL Ceti)
9.68 Proxima Sagittarii (Ross 154, V1216 Sagittarii)
10.32 Proxima Andromedae (Ross 248 , HH Andromedae)
10.52 Epsilon Eridani (Proxima Eridani)
10.74 Proxima Piscis Austrini (Lacaille 9352)
10.92 Proxima Virginis (Ross 128, FI Virginis)
11.27 Proxima Aquarii (A,B&C, EZ Aquarii)
11.37 Proxima Cygni (A&B,61 Cygni)
11.40 Procyon (A&B, Alpha Canis Minoris)
11.52 Proxima Draconis (A&B, Struve 2398)
11.62 GX/GQ Andromedae (Groombridge 34 A&B)
11.82 Epsilon Indi (Proxima Indi)
11.83 Proxima Cancri (DX Cancri )
11.89 Tau Ceti
11.99 Proxima Horologii (GJ 1061)
12.10 YZ Ceti (LHS 138)

12.0 LY Orange Text denotes presence

of planetary system
Green Text denotes possible
planetary system
Chapter 3:
Challenges of Human Star Flight

Challenges of Human Star Flight
 Spacecraft velocities need to be in the tens of percent of the
speed of light, or greater for human star flight to be conceivable.
 Must account for Einstein‟s Relativity effects.
 Example: To reach Tau Ceti (12 LY) in 40 years, you would need to travel
at ~90,000 km/sec (202,500,000 mi/hr) or about 30% c. Wow!

Current space probe
velocities are here
(far less than 0.01% c)

Challenges of Human Star Flight
 Relativity effects must be considered even at very low sublight speeds.
1) Relative mass increases as velocity gets closer to c, which requires more
energy to further accelerate the mass (E = mc2). Scientifically Proven!

The energy required

3 to accelerate a Particles with mass can
E relativistically-
increasing mass
NEVER be accelerated to
|mo| c2 2
becomes infinite as the speed of light!
1 v=c v approaches c.

0 c

2) The passage of time is slower for moving objects when measured with
respect to a stationary observer (time dilation). Scientifically Proven!
Joe leaves earth
and travels in space Joe aged 1 year upon
for 1 year at 0.9999c his return

Joe’s son is a small boy Joe’s son is a grown man

when Joe leaves when Joe comes home

– Issues with human aging during high-velocity trips.

– Communication delays between spacecraft and Earth.
Challenges of Human Star Flight
 Impacts to human physiology during multi-year journeys through
interstellar space:
 Extended exposure to zero-gravity, cosmic radiation, lack of reference or
“familiarity” of surroundings.
 May have to place crew in hibernation for a majority of the journey.

From 2001: A Space Odyssey

From Star Wars:

The Empire
From Star Trek: Voyager From Alien Strikes Back

 Hazards of interstellar space:

 Radiation – cosmic Background, vehicle power sources, gamma rays, etc.
– Could employ plasma “deflector shield” around spacecraft.
 Dust and Small Bodies – particularly near the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud.
 Extremely cold thermal environment (2-4°K)
 Spurious hot gases and charged particles
Challenges of Human Star Flight
 No external resources for vehicle and crew systems.
 Solar energy unavailable between stars – too dim for heat, light or power.
 Light from stars too dim for plant growth – affects food supply
 No celestial bodies from which to mine/extract fuel, oxygen or water.
 Emergencies - no rescue available, where to go if ship evacuated?

 Intelligent, reliable autonomous systems – self-repair/learning

required to reduce system degradation and maintain reliability.
 Close encounters - Would we be ready for first contact?

 Many, many others...... Uh-oh!

Chapter 4:
Propulsion System Metrics
for Interstellar Travel

Propulsion System Metrics
Based on Conventional Propulsion Science, here‟s what‟s needed:
 Stable and Continuous Thrust, F:

 Vehicle mass, desired acceleration rate and desired final cruising

speed will determine the thrust required.
 Used for slowing down close to destination (gravity-assist would have
opposite effect).
 High Specific Impulse, Isp:
 “The time (in seconds) to burn one unit mass of propellant while
producing one unit force of thrust.”
 Related to exhaust velocity, ve.
 The higher the Isp, the more “propellant-efficient” the engine.
 High Thrust-to-Weight:
 A high-thrust, low-weight propulsion system yields more manageable
vehicle mass and allowable payload or fuel.
 Reliability:
 The engine system must be able to withstand the harsh environments
and extended duty cycles required for interstellar missions.
Propulsion System Metrics
 High Delta-v (Δv) Capability:
 The magnitude change in the velocity vector required to overcome
momentum in order to change direction or accelerate.
 The higher the Δv, the more propulsive energy required.
 Vehicle mass and trajectory determine Δv required.



Assumes 90% of
vehicle is propellant
(m/mo = 0.1)

Propulsion Relationships

Generalized comparison of Isp, Δv and Thrust for various

propulsion systems:


Not discussed

Assumes 90% of vehicle is

propellant (m/mo = 0.1)

Chapter 5:
Conventional Mass Ejection
Propulsion Systems

State-of-the-Art: Chemical Combustion
 99% of all rocket engines operate on the principle of chemical
 Put fuel and oxidizer into a chamber, burn them, eject products

through a nozzle.
 Multiple variations on engine cycles and designs, each with pros/cons
depending on application.
 Decades of flight history – proven technology.

Solid Rocket Motor

The Best Available Today: LH2/LOX
 Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) / Liquid Oxygen (LOX) engine system.
 Max. Theoretical Isp: ~470 sec
 Other readily-available fuel/oxidizer combinations and solid-fueled
engines have lower Isp and Δv.
 This technology has reached an upper limit of development.
 Substantial investments necessary for only marginal improvements.

RS-68 (Delta IV) RL10 (Upper Stages) SSME (Space Shuttle)

LH2/LOX Gas Generator LH2/LOX Expander LH2/LOX Fuel-Rich Staged Comb.
Vac Isp = 410 s Vac Isp = 444 s Vac Isp = 453 s
Max. Fvac = 751,000 lbf Max. Fvac = 23,500 lbf Max. Fvac = 513,000 lbf 21
Improvements to the State-of-the-Art
 “Easier said than done.”
 Increasing propellant density by 10% may yield a 25% increase in
payload capacity.
 Example: Use slush hydrogen instead of liquid hydrogen.
 Increasing Isp by 10% may yield a 40% increase in payload capacity.
 Tripropellants:
– More energetic than LH2/LOX, but products are not gaseous.
– Could be highly toxic.
 High Energy Density Materials (HEDM):
– Metastable helium could yield Isp ≈ 3,100 s.
– Metallic hydrogen could yield Isp ≈ 1,700 s. (J. Cole NASA/MSFC)
 Significant investment, technology development and new infrastructure
would be required.
 The propellant mass required to get to Alpha Centauri (4.2 LY) in 900
years using chemical systems exceeds the mass of the known
Chemical combustion systems are
NOT viable for interstellar missions.
Is there anything else?
Chapter 6:
Alternative Conventional Systems

Alternative Conventional Systems
 Add heat energy to a working fluid propellant by means other than
Nuclear Fission Nuclear Fusion Annihilation
“Split” atomic nuclei by Fuse atomic nuclei by Convert oppositely-charged
bombardment of energetic high-energy collisions. particles to energy.
Rb n
n He
U235 3T

200 MeV Cs 17.7 MeV

 Can provide 9 orders of magnitude higher energy density than

the best chemical system – yields high Isp!
Ideal Energy Density (kJ/g)

U235 Tritium
109 Fission Fusion




Solid-Core Nuclear Fission
 Use nuclear fission to heat hydrogen and expel it through nozzle.
 NERVA/Rover – 1961-1972
– Remarkably successful program.
– Nearly flight qualified.
– Continuous run for 3 hrs 48
min at 74.8 klbf thrust.
– Isp:~850 s, growth to ~1000 s.
– $2.4B spent
 Particle Bed Reactor – 1980‟s
– More surface area for fission
process, higher fission
density, compact design.
– Thrust: 180 kN (40 klbf)
– Isp: ~1000 sec. Linear fuel rod
Particle bed

 Fission Fragment Concept – (c. 2000) Revolving Filament

– Magnetically accelerates the ionized Reactor Core
products of nuclear fission as
– No working fluid.
– Isp: 1,000,000 sec to ~speed of

light, c. Graphite Fiber with

Nuclear Fuel on
– Highly radioactive!! Surface Magnets
Gas-Core Nuclear Fission
 Fission fuel in liquid or gas form is injected and contained in high-temperature,
magnetically-confined fission plasma.
 Open-Cycle Gas Core
– Working fluid (LH2) heated through
plasma and ejected through nozzle.
– Exhaust is irradiated and carries
fissionable fuel with it – not good!
– Magnetic containment of plasma is
– Isp: 3,000 – 7,000 sec
– Can be launched in dormant (off) state.

 Closed-Cycle Gas Core

– Gaseous fission process contained in
ablatable transparent vessels
– Hydrogen used to cool containment
vessel walls while picking up heat.
– Isp: 1,500 – 2,100 sec
– Thrust: 45 – 450 kN (101 klbf).

Nuclear Fusion
 Requires overpowering the electrostatic repulsion of two nuclear cores and
keeping them together.
 Fusion products and energy release are contained within a plasma.
 Plasma cannot contact containment vessel walls or it will cool and
neutralize, thus stopping the fusion process.
 Has yet to yield greater than 1% of the energy required to sustain it.
 Joint European Torus (JET) achieved a 60% initial energy output for one
minute (1997).
 For propulsion, heat a working fluid or expel reaction products directly.
 Primary technical challenges are containment and sustainment.
 Three main categories of fusion containment:
 Magnetic Confinement (MCF)
– Contains plasma using magnetic fields and magnetic “mirrors” in a
Tokamak reactor or linear device.
Tokamak Fields Fusion Plasma Magnetic Mirror Fusion Engine Concept

Nuclear Fusion
 Inertial Confinement (ICF)
– Compresses pellets of fusible material by laser beams (pulse fusion).
– Ultra-high-power lasers or particle beams focus plasma into a small region.
– Pellet core can reach temps of 100 million degrees K!
ICF ICF Process ICAN-II Engine

ICF at Work

 Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC)

– Bombards fusion plasma with particles or ions to hold it in place.
– Ions generated by 100 kV potential have enough energy to initiate fusion.
IEC Reactor IEC at Work IEC Ejecta

Matter/Antimatter Annihilation
 Every elementary particle has a counterpart of opposite charge, but same mass.
 Electron (-)  Positron (+) Proton (+)  Antiproton (-)
 Matter and antimatter collisions result in enormous energy release.
 Highest energy density process: 1 kg matter + 1 kg AM = 1.8x1017 J!
 Antimatter can be stored as long as it does not contact normal matter.
 Must be confined using magnetic fields.

 Global annual production is 2-20 nanograms/yr at a cost of $300B per

milligram! Very inefficient creation process.
 A few grams of AM would contain enough energy to propel a spacecraft to
Mars in one month, but creating it would take millions of years!
 For propulsion, inject antimatter into working fluid to augment heat release.
 Could use antiprotons to initiate fusion (antiproton catalyzed fusion).
 Possible Isp between 5,000 - 10,000,000 sec - Viable for multi-decade,
robotic interstellar missions, but not for shorter, human missions.
Antiproton Antimatter-
Trap Powered Vessel

Other Alternative Conventional Systems
 Interstellar Ramjet / Bussard Hydrogen Ramjet (c.1960)
 Uses strong magnetic fields to scoop interstellar hydrogen into a collector,
heats it (conventionally) and expels it.
 Fields must sweep 1018 cu. meters of space to collect 1 gram of hydrogen!
 Infinite Isp since hydrogen fuel collected in-situ.

 VASIMR - VAriable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket

 Heats and confines H2 plasma using
magnetic fields and EM energy.
 Variable Isp by changing RF heating
 Isp: 3,000 – 30,000 sec.
 Thrust: 1 - 2 kN (450 lbf)
 Component testing in progress.

Current Status on Conventional Systems
NASA Technical Readiness
Level (TRL) Guide NASA
Concept TRL* Notes

Chemical 9 Interstellar applications impractical

Solid-Core Fission 5 Extensive history, NERVA, systems well-
VASIMR 4 Experimental R&D testing of specific
Fusion 3 Significant R&D work on terrestrial
Gas-Core Fission 3 Critical proof-of-concept work performed
Interstellar Ramjet 2 Concept and formulation work, major
technology issues to be addressed
Fission Fragment 1 Little work done beyond conceptual
Matter/Antimatter 1 Basic issues and exploratory work, major
technology issues to be addressed

* TRL Assessment from Chew, G., Doyle, M., and Stancati, M., “Interstellar Spaceflight Primer,”
Report for NASA Contract NASW-5067, Prepared for NASA Headquarters, Code SD, by Science
Applications International Corporation, Schaumburg, IL, February 2001, pp. 86 & 87.

Bottom Line: Conventional mass ejection systems are

NOT VIABLE for interstellar missions within a human lifetime.
Current/near-term propulsion technology would allow exploration of the solar
system within a “reasonable” time, but won’t work for interstellar missions.
Science needs a paradigm shift in propulsion technology:
Move from mechanics-based to physics-based concepts.
Chapter 7:
Physics-Based Concepts

Physics-Based Concepts
 What‟s different about these concepts compared to the others?
 No mass ejection (propellantless)!
– Eliminates the necessity to carry fuel or propellant.
 Use the space-time medium as the energy source or “working fluid”.
– Isp becomes meaningless.
 Rely on fluidic space-time, quantum physics, string theory,
electromagnetism and/or gravity to possibly create propulsive
 Some employ aspects of cosmological genres like dark matter, dark
energy, black holes, gravity waves, alternate dimensions and
universal expansion.
 All are highly-speculative, but have strong foundations rooted in
current scientific knowledge and experimental observations.
 These concepts could not only propel a vehicle at very high sublight
speeds (~70-99% c), but at the speed of light or beyond!
 Necessary for truly reasonable, human interstellar missions!

And now for something completely different…

…But First, Some Important Definitions
 Space-time Metric – The 3 spatial +1 temporal dimensional continuum in
which all physical things exist. The medium through which electromagnetic
energy propagates.
distortion from

 Negative Mass/Matter – Matter that produces negative (or repulsive) gravity

contrary to normal, “positive” matter. Sometimes called “exotic” matter.
Antimatter is not negative matter.

 Zero-Point Energy/Field (ZPE/ZPF) - Quantum mechanical, random,

instantaneous energy fluctuations within a volume of empty space (vacuum).
The smaller the observed volume (approaching the “zero point”), the larger the
fluctuations. Demonstrated through the Casimir effect.

• ZPF “radiation pressure”

forces two parallel
ZPE vacuum conducting plates together
fluctuations with a measurable force.
• 1 cm sq. plates spaced at 1
Casimir plates
micron generate 10-7N!
More Important Definitions

 String Theory – A universe model in

which space-time is composed of
fundamental entities called “strings”.
Strings are thought to exist at Planck
lengths (1.6×10−35 m or ~10−20x smaller
than a proton) or smaller. Strings randomly
interact to produce elementary particles,
EM fields and gravity.

 Brane or Brane World – Membrane-

like continuum composed of strings.
Sometimes considered as “alternate
universe”, compactified dimension,
alternate dimension, or space-time
called a D-Brane.

Things to Remember…
 Science does not understand the true nature of space-time.
 Does it have fluid-like properties?
 Is it pure ZPE?

Can energy be extracted from it?
Can it be manipulated without using mass?
Science does not know the true nature of mass.

Created by Higgs particles and fields?
Formed by knotted strings and quantum filaments?
 Science does not know the true nature of gravity and inertia.
 Created by “gravitons”?
 Caused by the distortion and displacement of space-time?
 Generated as the force from distant matter in the universe?
 How fast does it propagate through space-time?
 No proven model exists that explains “everything”.
 Gravity-electromagnetism (GEM)?
 String/Brane theory?
 Heim‟s theories?
 Tri-Space?
 Science does not know the nature of Dark Matter & Dark Energy.
 Can it be synthesized?
 Can it be used for propulsion?
 Einstein‟s field equations, quantum field theory and both Special
and General Relativity do not discount FTL travel!
Categories of Propellantless Concepts
The concepts listed below are some of the “more popular” ones in
their genre and have many variants beyond those presented.

1) Space-Time Warp Systems – Modify the space-time continuum to

mitigate relativistic effects and allow for travel.
 Alcubierre Warp Drive
 Traversable Wormholes
2) Gravity/Inertia/Electromagnetic Coupling – Mitigate, reduce or
artificially create gravity/inertia propulsive forces through novel
electromagnetic interactions (Grand Unified Theory).
 Heim Theory
 Gravito-Electromagnetism (GEM)
 Mach’s Principle and Mass Fluctuations
3) Alternate Dimensions / “Hyperspace” – Enter an alternate space-
time where relativistic effects are circumvented and faster-than-light travel
is naturally possible.
 Hyperspace in General Relativity
 Brane-Based Alcubierre Drive
 Tri-Space and Fluidic Space-Time
Alcubierre Warp Drive
 Generate a positive (attractive) gravity well in front of the vehicle and a
negative (repulsive) well behind it. The region between the two fields will
move through space-time at c or greater unaffected by relativistic effects.
 An elegant approach for a vehicle to “ride a gravity wave”.
Direction of

 Pros:
Simple and makes sense. A sound theory.
 Many variants explored by many theoretical physicists.
 The mathematics have been contrived and solved (general relativity).
 Negative energy may be possible through the Casimir effect and ZPE.
 Cons:
 Requires controllable, negative mass to create repulsive gravity,
possibly as much as 1067 grams. Some approaches claim only a few
milligrams are required.
 Not guaranteed to propagate FTL.
 Real-time navigation difficult or impossible. 38
Traversable Wormholes
 Connect two regions of space with a “tunnel” through which information/mass
can travel.

 Pros:
 Instantaneous travel between two points – no relativistic effects.
 Light speed never exceeded locally.
 The mathematics have been extensively studied and deemed possible.
 Cons:
 Requires gigantic quantities (e.g. neutron star equivalent) of both
negative and positive matter as well as enormous magnetic fields
(>1013 Tesla) to create a tunnel large enough for a spacecraft.
 Requires that the other end of the “hole” be taken through.
 Single-point destination, if known. Navigation not possible.
 Stability issues and collapse during transit.
Categories of Propellantless Concepts
The concepts listed below are some of the “more popular” ones in
their genre and have many variants beyond those presented.

1) Space-Time Warp Systems – Modify the space-time continuum to

mitigate relativistic effects and allow for travel.
 Alcubierre Warp Drive
 Traversable Wormholes
2) Gravity/Inertia/Electromagnetic Coupling – Mitigate, reduce or
artificially create gravity/inertia propulsive forces through novel
electromagnetic interactions (Grand Unified Theory).
 Heim Theory
 Gravito-Electromagnetism (GEM)
 Mach’s Principle and Mass Fluctuations
3) Alternate Dimensions / “Hyperspace” – Enter an alternate space-time
where relativistic effects are circumvented and faster-than-light travel is
naturally possible.
 Hyperspace in General Relativity
 Brane-Based Alcubierre Drive
 Tri-Space and Fluidic Space-Time
Heim Theory
 Convert photons into "gravito-photons“ via quantum
hyperspace resulting in a measurable force.
 Could be used for propulsion.
 Developed by Burkhard Heim in the 1970‟s-1980‟s as an
approach to the “Theory of Everything”.
 Heavy in mathematics.
 Attempts to unify gravitation and quantum mechanics.
 Involves a 6, 8 or 12-dimension “quantum hyperspace“ in
which fundamental particles and their interactions are
 Predictions of the masses of neutrino.
 Predictions of new particles.
 Predictions of excited states of existing particles.

 Pros:
 W. Dröscher and J. Häuser (Germany) are extending Heim Theory to
facilitate propulsion concepts.
 Beginning to gain recognition as a viable alternative to Standard Models
of modern physics and quantum mechanics.
 Cons:
 Predicts new particles and natural forces not yet observed or
experimentally verified.
 Does not account for some particles and forces already observed.
 Only one peer-reviewed publication exists by Heim (1977), but other
non-reviewed documents available. 41
Gravito-Electromagnetism (GEM)
 Create or manipulate gravity through precise control Example: “Onion” drive
of EM forces.
 Usually involves antennae, coils, toroidal
inductors, various other hardware.
 Generate an “anti-inertial” field to protect vehicle
from rapid accelerations (“inertial dampeners”).
 Attempts to merge the physics of gravity & inertia
with those of electromagnetism.
 Heavy math: Einstein Field equations, stress-
energy tensors, torsion fields, etc.
 Involves both particle and quantum physics.
 Pros:
 Has been thoroughly examined for over 100 years.
 Many “engineering” approaches exist, some
patented, on how to augment or attenuate gravity
by controlling EM fields.
 J. Brandenburg (ORBITEC) actively pursuing
propulsion applications and theory development.
 Cons:
 Has never been successfully demonstrated - in over 100 years.
 Very few concepts have been experimentally tested, all with null,
unfavorable or questionable results.
 Travel at speeds at or near c is unknown.
Mach’s Principle and Mass Fluctuations
Mach’s Principle:
Inertia is felt by an accelerating object due to the radiative gravitational
effects of the distant matter in the universe.
 Use EM fields to rapidly create mass fluctuations which the distant matter
in the universe (ballast) will react upon to develop a net force.
 The time-averaged “pull” on the object due to Mach‟s Principle may result in a
directional force.

Ballast Fluctuating
Mass Mass
 Pros:
 Experiments in progress! See next Chapter
 Basic theory does not require negative matter, but Mach Effect may produce
negative energies required for other exotic concepts.
 Testable at reasonable power levels and with simple hardware.
 Mach-Lorentz Thrusters (MLTs) or Unidirectional Force Generators (UFGs).
 Cons:
 Fundamental theory difficult to understand.
 Difficult to measure and quantify mass fluctuation effects due to signal noise
contamination and test apparatus effects.
 Propulsive performance of MLTs not yet quantified (may only be capable of
sublight speeds). 43
Categories of Propellantless Concepts
The concepts listed below are some of the “more popular” ones in
their genre and have many variants beyond those presented.

1) Space-Time Warp Systems – Modify the space-time continuum to

mitigate relativistic effects and allow for travel.
 Alcubierre Warp Drive
 Traversable Wormholes
2) Gravity/Inertia/Electromagnetic Coupling – Mitigate, reduce or
artificially create gravity/inertia propulsive forces through novel
electromagnetic interactions (Grand Unified Theory).
 Heim Theory
 Gravito-Electromagnetism (GEM)
 Mach‟s Principle and Mass Fluctuations
3) Alternate Dimensions / “Hyperspace” – Enter an alternate space-
time where relativistic effects are circumvented and faster-than-light travel
is naturally possible.
 Hyperspace in General Relativity
 Brane-Based Alcubierre Drive
 Tri-Space and Fluidic Space-Time
Hyperspace in General Relativity
 Shift or “rotate” a spacecraft into a hyperspace where time is measured
differently, but where travel at c or greater is allowed.
 Provides the construct of an added dimension, or “hyperspace”, to our 3+1
space-time through General Relativity.
 Based on a re-definition of time.
 Particles in hyperspace move at c.
 Hyperspace topology may also help to explain universal expansion.
…and re-enters its space-
time at a new location.

Proper Time of
Space-time Special Relativity, τ
distance, x
Object leaves its …travels through
 Cons: space-time…

 Highly mathematical and somewhat esoteric.

 Pros:
 Causality is eliminated by definition of hyperspace.
 Faster than light travel is possible!
 Examines hyperspace “optics” to utilize high-frequency gravitational waves
and particle interaction.
 G. Fontana (University of Trento, Italy) continually refining theory.
 Hyperspace only exists in a mathematical sense – may be untestable. 45
Brane-Based Alcubierre Drive
 Adjust the radii of the extra dimensions to affect changes in the local
cosmological constant.
 Develops an Alcubierre-like space-time distortion. Relates the
cosmological constant to the Casimir energy of Planck-scale,
compactified dimensions from brane-world theory.
 Utilizes quantum field theory instead of Special Relativity.
 Requires ultra high energies to explore.
 Would utilize the negative energy densities generated by the Casimir effect to
influence extra dimensions.

“Contracting” extra

“Expanding” extra
 Pros:
 No relativistic effects (similar to Alcubierre Drive).
 Does not directly use negative mass.
 Faster than light travel is possible with upper limit of 1032c!
 R. Obousy (Baylor University) continuing to refine theory.
 Cons:
 Requires the existence and manipulation of as yet unobserved extra
 A significant/infinite number of extra dimensions may need to be altered.
 Navigation not considered. 46
Tri-Space and Trans-Space FTL Travel
 Proposes that the universe consists of three, co-located space-times:
subluminal (v<c), luminal (v=c) and superluminal (v>c), hence “Tri-space”.

 Energy extraction results in higher velocities.

 Real, positive mass energy can exist in only one space at a time.
 In superluminal space, rest mass becomes imaginary and only velocities
greater than c exist.
 Superluminal mass is made of tachyon equivalents of subluminal particles.
 Either space is unobservable from the other, but gravity acts across each.

 Superluminal mass has a repulsive gravitational effect in subluminal space.47

Tri-Space and Trans-Space FTL Travel
 Trans-Space FTL Travel: Traverse subluminal space by traveling through
superluminal space.
(1) (2) (3)

(4) (5)

 Pros:
Causality or relativity not violated in either space. No relativistic effects.

 Velocities always greater than light speed (theoretical infinite velocity).

 Navigation possible.
 No negative matter required.
 Several plausible theories exist for entering superluminal space.
 Tri-Space model consistent with current scientific discoveries.
 Evidence suggests existence of superluminal space and fluidic space-time.
 Cons:
 Assumes existence of superluminal space (possibly dark matter/energy).
 Mathematics partially understood, requires analysis of fluidic space-time.
 Characteristics of superluminal space need to be understood.
 Difficult to model in 3-D. 48
Comparison of FTL Concepts

Trans-Space FTL Travel has many advantages over other FTL concepts…

Trans-Space FTL Travel Other FTL Travel Concepts

Matter energy transferred from one space to - Disturbance created in spacetime via holes,
another through spacetime medium warps, folds, etc.
- Access to multi-dimensional spaces/branes

Vessel traverses subluminal space by traveling Vessel travels through holes, warps, folds, or
through superluminal space hidden dimensions in spacetime

- Absolute throughout tri-space - Large amounts required

- Conserved between all spaces - „Negative‟ energy required (?)

- No causality effects - Sometimes instantaneous - no causal effects

- Time travel not possible - „Negative‟ energy may pose temporal issues

- Possible in superluminal space (similar to - Unknown, difficult or impossible

subluminal space) - Destination must sometimes be known
- Detection/Interaction using gravity wells beforehand
- „Stationary‟ EM energies for attitude control

- No „negative‟ quantities required - No guarantee of FTL velocities

- Transition to FTL state at subatomic level - Quantum effects not defined
- No initial velocity required to transition - “Brute force” to get to near-c velocities
Summary of Propellantless Ideas
 All “back of the napkin” concepts, so NASA TRL is about 0 or 1.
 Of the concepts described, only these few appear to offer the
possibility of light speed or FTL travel:
 Alcubierre Warp Drive
 Traversable Wormholes
 Hyperspace in GR
 Brane-Based Alcubierre
 Trans-Space FTL Travel
 Subsystems required to support these
concepts are still being conceived, as are
the actual “engines”.
 Cosmology and quantum mechanics are
intimately related.
 An “alternate space” is necessary for
light speed or FTL travel to be possible.
Bottom Line on Propellantless Concepts
Right now, these are the only ideas that
will allow human interstellar travel within a
reasonable timeframe (if they work at all)!
So what are we doing about it?? 50
Chapter 8:
Experimental Programs

Breakthrough Propulsion Physics (BPP) Program
 BPP Program operated by NASA Glenn Research Center by M. Millis,
 GOAL: Exceed the fundamental limits of existing propulsion by further
advancing physics to discover the breakthroughs that could revolutionize
spaceflight and enable interstellar voyages.
 Developed a rigorous process for determining the scientific credibility and
validity of unique propulsion ideas involving “new” or “breakthrough”
 First dedicated effort to experimentally explore fundamentals of physics-
based propulsion concepts.
 Summary of BPP Program:
 Assessed 16 research approaches ($1.55M spread over 1996-2002).
– Co-sponsored by WV, NASA-HQ, NASA-MSFC, ESA-ESTEC, NRL, &
private industry.
– 5 not viable (null)
– 7 unresolved
– 4 open for continued study
 16 technical journal publications produced.
 Website: Award-winning public education site; “Warp Drive, When?”
 Book: Frontiers of Propulsion Science NOW available thru AIAA
– 23 chapters from 18 contributing authors (including editors).
 Some experimental programs are continuing with favorable results!
BPP Concept Management

Managing Advanced Concepts Research & Identifying Research Targets

Knowledge Compare Emerging Knowledge to Goals Goals

Foundational Curious Effects, Concepts Grand

Physics Unknowns, & Issues & Devices Challenges

mpvp = mrvr
Conservation Laws
Quantum Fluctuations

Space Drives

Quantum Mechanics

1. Zero Propellant
Anomalous Rotation
Rates 2. Faster-Than-Light
General Relativity (“Dark Matter”) Warp Drives & 3. Onboard Energy

Anomalous Red-shifts
(“Dark Energy”)
Vacuum Battery ?
MLT Mass Fluctuation Experiments
 Experimental approaches designed to explore Mach‟s Principle for
 Use capacitors and piezoelectric materials.
 Capacitors have a different internal energy when charging than when at
constant voltage.
 Periodically “accelerate” the dielectric ions using EM or piezoelectric forces,
measure “thrust”.
 Experiments show curious results and mN-level thrusts!
 Dr. J. Woodward (CalState/Fullerton) currently using a capacitor stack
sandwiched between piezoelectric “shuttler” plates.
 Side plates will linearly oscillate thus “shuttling” the stack back & forth.
 Force measured on custom-designed thrust balance.
Piezoelectric plates Capacitor wafers

MLT Thrust Balance (ARC Lite) at CSU

Woodward’s MLT Shuttler Module 54
MLT Mass Fluctuation Experiments

 Paul March (ret. Lockheed, Barrios) and H. Sonny White (IAS) using a
circular ring of capacitors subject to an oscillating magnetic field.
 Force measured on custom-designed pendulum.
 All experiments are in progress and continuing!

Capacitor Electric field coil


March/White MLT and Testing

Anomalous Acceleration Field
 Dr. M. Tajmar at the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) has
experimentally observed a “gravity-like” anomalous acceleration field
generated within the vicinity of rotating, liquid helium.
 Anomalous signals detected by stationary gyroscopes and accelerometers.
 Exhibits an unusual rotational parity violation.
 Field characterization is still on-going.
 Field is 18-20 orders of magnitude greater than prediction by General
Relativity (GR).
 GR may not be the parent theory to explain the phenomenon.
 Observed field is in the 10-5 g range.
 Field is not produced by EM, mechanical or instrumentation disturbances.
 Possible ties to Gravity Probe B data and Pioneer anomaly.
 No known theory in physics can readily explain the field‟s strength or
observations made to date.
AIT Setup D

Gyro Signal from Center of Cryostat

Potential Acceleration Field Applications
If the acceleration field can be amplified, controlled, directed, and
efficiently produced, the foundation may exist for a remote force
generation technology to potentially be used for…

Vehicle Control Object Deflection Gravity Gradients Propellantless

 “Propellantless” satellite  Projectile-less, satellite-  “Artificial” gravity in space propulsion?
or upper stage RCS based missile defense  Extends astronaut
 De-orbit capability  Asteroid or “space junk” endurance
deflection  Changes space structure
construction techniques
 “Zero”/microgravity on earth

 Crystal growth

…Plus a myriad of other medical/manufacturing possibilities.

Chapter 9:
Concluding Remarks

Skeptics and Quotations

 “There is practically no chance communications

space satellites will be used to provide better
telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service
in the United States.”
– T. Craven, FCC Commissioner, in 1961 (the first
communications satellite went into service in 1965).

 “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but

in order to earn better than a „C‟, the idea must
be feasible.”
– Mid-1960s. A Yale University management professor
in response to Fred Smith‟s paper proposing reliable
overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found
Federal Express Corp.).

 “Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped

with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons,
computers in the future may have only 1,000
vacuum tubes and weight only 1.5 tons.”
– Popular Mechanics, March 1949.

Final Thoughts on Interstellar Travel
 Mankind needs to venture out into the universe to seek the answers
to questions about our evolution and our fate.
 Terrestrial-based and robotic exploration has extreme limitations.
 Current propulsion technology and near-term advancements will not
facilitate rapid, human exploration of the solar system or local stars.
 Contrary to popular belief, the speed of light is NOT the speed limit!
 Einstein and others have shown this to be true.
 A paradigm shift in propulsion technology must happen if we are
ever to become a thriving, space-faring civilization.
 Depart from conventional systems into physics-based concepts that
enable travel at superluminal speeds!
 Some of these concepts could be developed within 50 years with
proper program structure, dedicated research, and of course funding.

And finally…
Open minds and the defiance of convention are essential
for the advancement of technology.
Final Thoughts on Interstellar Travel

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible,

then they seem improbable, and then when we
summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”
- Christopher Reeve, Actor



For a copy, contact:

Greg Meholic at
Interstellar Exploration Vessel
Orion Star
(No...This isn‟t from Star Trek) 62
Photo/Graphics Credits (1)
Title Slide Solar System –, April 14, 2008.
Milky Way –, April 14, 2008.
HS 8799 sys -,
Nov. 14, 2008.
Measurements Earth/moon animation -,
April 14, 2008.
Ultimate Mission Enterprise -, February 23, 2010.
Solar Sys and Local… Map - Mewaldt, R. A. (1998),, April 14, 2008.
Earth -, April 14, 2008.
Alpha Centauri –, April 14, 2008.
Pioneer 10 –, April 14, 2008.
Voyager 1 -, April 15, 2008.
New Horizons -, April 15, 2008.
Possible Destinations Star map –, February 23, 2010.
Challenges of…(1) Chew, G., Doyle, M., and Stancati, M., “Interstellar Spaceflight Primer,” Report for NASA Contract NASW-
5067, Prepared for NASA Headquarters, Code SD, by Science Applications International Corporation,
Schaumburg, IL, February 2001, pp. 19 & 21.
Challenges of…(2) Relativity Curve - Meholic, G., “Beyond the Light Barrier: A Concept for Superluminal Travel,” AIAA Paper
98-3410, 34th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference, Cleveland, OH, July 13-15, 1998.
Challenges of…(3) Star Trek Voyager –, April 15, 2008.
Alien hibernation pods -, April 15, 2008.
2001 hibernation pods –, April 15, 2008.
Star Wars, Han Solo -, April 15,
Challenges of…(4) Star Trek escape pods -, April 15, 2008.
HAL 9000 eye –, April 15, 2008.
Alien -, January 18, 2010.
Prop. Sys. Metrics Tajmar, M. of the Austrian Research Centers, Seibersdorf, Austria, Lecture 317.014 for Vienna University
of Technology,, circa 2003,
pp. 8 & 10.
Prop. Relationships Table - See previous Tajmar, pg. 9.
State-of-the-Art… Liquid rocket engine -,
April 15, 2008.
Solid rocket -,
April 15, 2008. 63
Photo/Graphics Credits (2)
The Best Available… RS-68 -, April 15, 2008.
SSME -, April 15, 2008.
RL10 -, April 15, 2008.
Alt. Conventional… Fission process – See previous Tajmar, pg. 55.
Fusion process – See previous Tajmar, pg. 71.
M/AM animation -, April 16,
Bar Chart - See previous Tajmar, pg. 56.
Solid-Core… Solid core schematic –, April 15, 2008.
NERVA –, April 15, 2008.
Particle bed, SNTP engine, fission fragment - See previous Tajmar, pp. 62 & 67.
Gas-Core… Open-cycle –, April 15, 2008.
Closed-cycle -, April 15, 2008.
Nuclear Fusion (1) Tokamak fields –, April 16, 2008.
Magnetic mirror engine –, April 16, 2008.
Fusion plasma –, April 15, 2008.
Nuclear Fusion (2) Inertial confinement –, April 16, 2008.
ICF microballoon -, April 16, 2008.
ICF laser –, April 16, 2008.
ICAN-II engine -, April 16, 2008.
IEC reactor -, April 16, 2008.
IEC at work –, April 16, 2008.
IEC ejecta -, April 16, 2008.
Matter/Antimatter… Antiproton trap -
applications_of_antimatter_files/image016.jpg, January 19, 2010.
Antimatter Engine – Johnson, L., “Interstellar Propulsion Research: Realistic Possibilities and Idealistic
Dreams,” Invited presentation at the Space Power and Energy Sciences International Forum (SPESIF),
Hunstville, AL, February, 2009.
Antimatter ship -
/antimatter.jpg, January 19, 2010.
Other Alternative… Bussard ramjet -
bussardimages/ramjet-side-text.jpg, April 16, 2008.
Ramjet ship -, April 16, 2008.
VASIMR -, April 16, 2008.
Photo/Graphics Credits (3)
Current Status… NASA TRL guide -, April 16, 2008.
Important Def… Spacetime curvature -, April 17, 2008.
Casimir effect -, April 17, 2008.
More Important Def… Calabi Grid strings -, January 21, 2010.
D-brane -, January 21, 2010.
Alcubierre Warp Drive Alcubierre fields -, April 17, 2008.
Alcubierre w/ship -, April 17, 2008.
Trav. Wormholes Wormhole diagram -, April 17, 2008.
Wormhole ship -, April 17, 2008.
Heim Theory Burkhard Heim -, April 17, 2008.
Heim gravity -, April 17, 2008.
Gravito-Electro… “Onion” drive ship field map – Potter, P. and Savage, J. Sent from Potter via email on April 21, 2009.
NX-01 schematic -
30_Enterpirse_schematics_free_StarTrek_wallpaper_l.jpg, April 17, 2008.
Mach’s Principle… Animation from Woodward, J.,” Mach‟s Principle and Mach Effects,” Presented at the Space Power and
Energy Sciences International Forum (SPESIF-10), AIP Conf Proceedings 1103, Huntsville, AL, 2009.
Hyperspace in GR Hyperspace animation - Fontana, G., Murad, P., and Baker, Jr. R., “Hyperspace for Space Travel,”
Presented at the Space Technology Applications International Forum (STAIF) 2007, Albuquerque, NM,
AIP Proceedings Volume 880, February 2007.
Brane-Based… Extra Dimensions - Obousy, R., Cleaver, G.,” Supersymmetry Breaking Casimir Warp Drive,” Presented
at the Space Technology Applications International Forum (STAIF) 2007, Albuquerque, NM, AIP
Proceedings Volume 880, February 2007.
Tri-Space (1) & (2) Meholic, G., “A Novel View of Spacetime Permitting Faster-Than-Light Travel,” Presented at the Space
Technology Applications International Forum (STAIF) 2004, Albuquerque, NM, AIP Proceedings Volume
699, February 2004.
Summary of… Han Solo and Chewbacca go FTL -
AAAAAAAAFGo/eEF4GarhWb4/s1600-h/light+speed.jpg, April 17, 2008.
Warp nacelle animation -, April 17, 2008.
BPP Concept… Graphics -, unknown date.
MLT Mass Fluc. (1)… MLT shuttler and ARC Lite – Photos sent from Woodward, J. via email and used with permission on
January 16, 2010.
MLT Mass Fluc. (2)… MLT cap ring and testing – Photos sent from March, P. via email on June 22, 2009.
Anomalous Accel… Tajmar, M. and Plesescu, F., “Fiber-Optic-Gyroscope Measurements Close to Rotating Liquid Helium,”
Preprint, to be presented at the Space Power and Energy Sciences International Forum (SPESIF-10) in
2010. 65
Photo/Graphics Credits (4)
Potential Apps… TDRS satellite –, April 18, 2008.
ICBM -, April 18, 2008.
Lunar module upper stage -
spacesymposium1.jpg, April 18, 2008.
Asteroid –, April 18, 2008.
ISS –, April 18, 2008.
Crystal growth –
250px-Insulin_crystals_comparison.jpg, April 18, 2008.
Star Wars -, April 18, 2008.
Concluding Remarks Andromeda Galaxy -, April 18, 2008.
Quotations Quotations - Mankins, J., “Energy From Orbit,” Ad Astra, Vol. 20 Issue 1, Spring 2008.
Communication satellite –, April 18, 2008.
FedEx logo –, April 18, 2008.
ENIAC -, April 18, 2008.
Orion Star Model of Interstellar Exploration Vessel Orion Star TSR-2209 designed and built by Greg Meholic,
Copyright Greg Meholic 2005.
Star Trek -, April 23,
Star Wars -, April 23, 2008.
BPP Topics & charts Millis, M., ” Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project: Project Management Methods,” NASA TM 2004-
213406, NASA Glenn Research Center, 2004.

All trademarks, service marks, and trade names are the property of their respective owners.

Supporting Information:
BPP Details and Experiments
More Antimatter Information

BPP Detailed Topics
BPP Null Research Findings

• Mechanical “Antigravity” (AIAA-2006-4913)

Gyroscopes, Sticktion oscillators

Figure 3
Hooper's Sel f-Cancelli ng Flat Coi l

• Hooper “antigravity” coils (NASA TM-106963)

Point where wire is folded back onto its elf

• Schlicher thrusting antenna (AIAA-2001-3657)

• Podkletnov gravity shield (Hathaway, Physica C 385 p.488)

• Corona blowers (NASA CR-2004-213312)

“Biefeld-Brown,” “Electrogravitcs,” “Lifters,” “ACTs”

• Quantum tunneling as FTL venue

BPP Unresolved Research Approaches

• Woodward’s inertial oscillation theory & experiments

• If genuine, assess propulsive implications

• Abraham vs. Minkowski electromagnetic momentum (1909)

• If Minkowski correct, assess propulsive implications

• Inertia & gravity interpreted as quantum vacuum effects

• If viable, assess propulsive implications

• Podkletnov latest claim: “force-beam”

• Superconductors as a new generic exploration tool

BPP Open Research Approaches
Space Drives
• Seek reaction mass from space (revisit cosmological anomalies)
• Revisit Mach’s Principle (inertial frame physics)
• Seek Asymmetric Coupling of the Fundamental Forces

Quantum Vacuum Energy Experiments (NASA CR-2004-213311)

• As a window to studying fundamental space properties
• Asses magnitude of tangible forces or energy
• Note: Although propulsion possible in principle, still too feeble

Provocative Questions
• Resolve anomalous spacecraft trajectories
• Look for violations of Equivalence Principle in free-fall

Faster-Than-Light Inquiries
• Average null energy conditions
• Quantum fluctuations in topology
• Causality questions
Matter/Antimatter Annihilation
 Every elementary particle has a counterpart that is of opposite
charge, but same mass.
 Electron (-)  Positron (+)
 Proton (+)  Antiproton (-) (preferred for propulsion – more mass)
 When two similar mass particles collide, the two masses are
annihilated and completely converted to energy.
 Antimatter can be sustained indefinitely
as long as it does not contact normal matter.
 Process yields the highest energy density in
nature: 1 kg matter + 1 kg AM = 1.8x1017 J!

 Antimatter is created by colliding a highly-accelerated matter stream

with a stationary target.
 Antimatter must be quickly and carefully
captured during the process - inefficient.
 Trapping and storing antimatter requires
high vacuum conditions at very low temps.
 Global annual production: 2-20 nanograms/yr
 Production cost: $300B per milligram
 Able to make Anti-hydrogen? 72