Commercial Spaceflight And The Dawning Age of NewSpace

StarChips, Not Starships, Proposed for Trips to Alpha Centauri

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, renowned physicists Stephen Hawking and Freeman Dyson, and former NASA Ames Center Director Pete Worden were among the members of a high profile group that announced a “Breakthrough Starshot” initiative today, the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight into space. Milner, who was named after Gagarin, is devoting $100 million of his fortune for phase one of the effort to send hundreds or thousands of postage stamp sized spacecraft to Alpha Centauri, the closest star, 4.37 light years away.

Speaking at the One World Observatory in New York City, Milner described advances in microfabrication, nanotechnology and photonics that have or will make it possible to send tiny spacecraft (nanocraft) on such a journey using laser-propelled sails (lightsails) for propulsion. Experiments with solar sails have already taken place, but the energy of our Sun is insufficient to send a spacecraft to such a distance. Instead, an array of lasers on Earth will provide the force to push the “StarChips” along at a very high velocity — 20 percent of the speed of light.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.spacepolicyonline.com

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