AN UNMANNED PROBE TO ALPHA CENTAURI
U.S. NAVAL ACADEMY
NASA/USRA University Advanced Design
Program Project Report for 1987-1988
Keith A. Beals
Frank J. Dembia
Daniel L. Kramer
Jeffrey R. West
James A. Zito
(NASA-CR-184718) PROJECT LONGSHOT: ANN09-16904
UNMANNED PROBE TO ALPHA CENTAURI Program
Project Report, 1987 - 1988 (Naval Academy)
74 p CSCL 22BUnclas
This report presents a preliminary design for an unmanned probe to Alpha Centauri with a planned launch early in the 21st century. This mission was based upon a requirement stated in the report by the National Commission on Space, Pioneering the Space Frontier. The probe would be assembled at the space station and take approximately 100 years to reach the nearest star. Several technologies must be developed in order for this mission to be possible. A pulsed fusion microexplosion drive with 1,000,000 seconds of specific impulse is the primary enabling technology. A large, long-life fission reactor with 300 kilowatts power output is also required. Communications lasers would use a 0.532 micron wavelength since there is minimal power output by the stars in that frequency band. A laser with an input power of 250 kilowatts would allow for a data rate of 1000 bits per second at maximum range. There are three types of information to be gathered by the probe: properties of the interstellar medium, characteristics of the three-star Alpha Centauri system, and astrometry (finding distances to stars using parallax measurements).
This project represents the United States Naval Academy participation in the NASA/USRA University Advanced Design Program. Seven first class midshipmen in the Aerospace Engineering Department (Astronautics track) performed this work In EA 439, Special Design (Fall semester 1987) and EA 470, Spacecraft Design (Spring semester 1988). The seven group members were Keith Beals, Martin Beaulieu, Frank Dembia, Joseph Kerstiens, Daniel Kramer, Jeffrey West, and James Zito.
The faculty advisors were Assistant Professor Walter K. Daniel and Professor George F. Pieper. The NASA representative from Goddard Space Flight Center was Dr. Stephen Paddack, who is also a Naval Academy Visiting Professor. Visiting Professor Fred Mobley from the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory participated in the design courses.