Project Icarus (interstellar)

Project Icarus is a theoretical engineering design study aimed at designing a credible, mainly nuclear fusion-based, unmanned interstellar space probe.[1] Project Icarus was an initiative of members of the British Interplanetary Society and the Tau Zero Foundation (TZF) started in 2009. It is now managed by the members as a separate division of the umbrella organization of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Icarus Interstellar. It was motivated by the British Interplanetary Society's Project Daedalus, a similar study that was conducted between 1973 and 1978.[2]

The project is planned to take around five years and began formally on September 30, 2009.[3] An international team of scientists and engineers has been assembled. The Icarus Interstellar project web site lists the team.[4]


Project Icarus was founded, mainly, by Kelvin Long and Richard Obousy. The project was first announced at a conference at the United Kingdom Space Conference, held at Charterhouse, Surrey on 4 April 2009, when Kelvin Long had organized the first interstellar session. He then approached Richard Obousy about helping to set up the project. A symposium was organized by Kelvin Long and Ian Crawford at the British Interplanetary Society to review "Daedalus After 30 Years". As well as presentations from Long, Obousy and Crawford, it included presentations from future team members Richard Osborne, Martyn Fogg and Andreas Tziolas. Other future team members in the audience that day included Pat Galea and Rob Swinney. The genesis of the project is described in the original paper[5] as well as a history paper.[6]

Project Icarus focuses on the technology challenges of interstellar travel.[7] "The required milestones should be defined in order to get to a potential launch of such a mission. This should include a credible design, mission profile, key technological development steps and other aspects as considered appropriate." These goals are to be achieved by technical reports on engineering layout, functionality, physics, operation and other aspects of such an interstellar ship.[7]

While Daedalus had relied on helium-3 propulsion depending on mining Neptune or Jupiter to produce sufficient helium-3; several other fuel sources and fusion types have been researched.[7]

Members of the Project Icarus study group went on to form a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Icarus Interstellar, which then launched various other projects other than just Project Icarus. Icarus Interstellar has the mission of seeing interstellar flight achieved by the year 2100.

In September 2011, Project Icarus received a mention in the BBC's Sky at Night Programme.[8]

Team members

The Project Team, a worldwide group made up of volunteers who are members of Icarus Interstellar and the British Interplanetary Society, has some notable members such as:

  • Dr. Stephen Baxter, the renowned science fiction author who is one of the designers
  • Dr. Vint Cerf, the American internet pioneer who is one of the project consultants
  • Dr. Andreas Tziolas, former NASA research fellow at NASA who is the project leader

Project Icarus design competition

In 2013 a design competition internal to Icarus Interstellar was launched. During a final workshop at the British Interplanetary Society in October 2013 a team from the WARR student group of the Technical University of Munich under the leadership of Andreas Hein was nominated as the winner.[9]

See also


  1. K.F. Long & R.K. Obousy 12th May 2010—Project Icarus: project programme document (PPD)–overview project plan covering period 2009–2014 pdf Archived 2012-03-04 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2012-01-25
  2. Leonard David, "Futuristic interstellar space probe idea revisited", NBC News, May 9, 2010.
  3. Stephen Ashworth FBIS, "Project Icarus—Son of Daedalus", Spaceflight, 454–455 (December 2009).
  4. "Icarus Interstellar". Icarus Interstellar. Retrieved 2017-06-24.
  5. Long, K. F.; Fogg. M.; Obousy, R. K.; Tziolas, A.; Mann, A.; Osborne, R.; Presby, A. (2009). "Project Icarus: Son of Daedalus — Flying Closer to Another Star". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 62 (11/12): 403–414. Bibcode:2009JBIS...62..403L. ISSN 0007-084X.
  6. Long, K. F.; Fogg, M.; Obousy, R. K.; Tziolas, A. (2011). "Technical Note—Project Icarus: The Origins and Aims of the Study". Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. 64 (3): 88–91. Bibcode:2011JBIS...64...88L. ISSN 0007-084X.
  7. Andersen, Ross (23 Feb 2012). "Project Icarus: Laying the Plans for Interstellar Travel". The Atlantic. Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  8. Future Publishing Limited (2014-04-11). "Ghost Ship to Alpha Centauri |". Retrieved 2017-06-24.
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