BuildTheEnterprise Open Letter to Billionaires

August 30th, 2014

Dear Billionaires Everywhere,

As the years pass perhaps you are beginning to feel it’s time to start giving away some of your money. Well, when considering all of your options in these matters of philanthropy – I have an option for you to consider. Please read the ideas on the BuildTheEnterprise (BTE) website and consider contributing money to help create a BTE R&D Company.

The BTE Company’s charter will be to conduct research to investigate gigawatt-class spaceships with 1g artificial gravity and also to explore low-cost launch systems. The research would target a whole new class of large interplanetary spacecraft which current research does not touch. And the template for this ship will take the form of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. Human space exploration is all about inspiring people – and with that in mind Earth’s first super-ship that takes us into space in a big way should inspire us too. Just like we expect our skyscrapers on the Earth to inspire us, our large spaceships that serve as both spaceships and space-stations should inspire us. Nothing would get people on Earth more excited about human space exploration than the idea that the USS Enterprise – this ship from our fictional dreams of the future – might one day be built in low Earth orbit.

When it comes to space exploration, what is sorely needed is a research company that will focus on what’s truly required for developing the broad-scale infrastructure for getting humans into space in a big way. A goal of this research includes finding a way to build large permanent bases on Mars and the moon, with 1g artificial gravity on these bases, along with robust shielding against dangerous radiation from space. Earth-like living conditions are needed on these bases if they are going to truly evolve into long term settlements. We are destined to be in space on a grand scale. It’s time to start thinking outside the box about how we get humans established beyond Earth.

The BTE Company will sponsor research into radically new low-cost launch systems, for example an airship-to-orbit system or the EmDrive or who knows what else. Anything will be considered as long as it’s within the realm of real science. The people of Earth need a means to move large masses of hardware cheaply into space, while generating low pollution, if human space exploration is ever really going to take off. Furthermore, VASIMR-like gigawatt-class electric propulsion engines, and the accompanying high-energy power systems to run them, are needed for developing the large interplanetary spaceships with 1g artificial gravity that can facilitate carrying large quantities of components and supplies as well as people to Mars and the moon for establishing substantial and sustainable bases. Bases may even include a floating city in the sky above Venus.

To assure the BTE Company research is based on sound engineering, two models of the gigawatt-class ship will be researched for going on interplanetary space missions. One will take the form of the iconic USS Enterprise, and the other will be a ship that is 100% functional. As outputs from the company research, this approach will provide two examples of future ships, one emphasizing the inspirational role of the ship and the other showing a ship meant to be purely utilitarian as might be appropriate for a freight transport vessel.

As funding permits, the BTE Company will build a 1/200th scale prototype of the Gen1 Enterprise in low Earth orbit to test out all of the technologies required for building a future full scale Gen1 Enterprise.

Personally, I have a good job working as an engineer – but I would leave my job tomorrow if I could instead run the BTE Company. That would be a dream job for me, and I would travel the world seeking out top experts to help kick off and then accelerate whole new areas of research such as for: (1) ultra low-cost and low-polluting launch systems, (2) the components for gigawatt-class interplanetary spaceships using electric propulsion and 1g artificial gravity, (3) breakthrough high energy density power systems for spacecraft, and (4) bases on Mars and the moon with 1g artificial gravity that include full radiation shielding.

Thus, when you consider your options regarding where to donate money, I hope that one option you will consider will be donating to help create the BTE Company!

Best Regards,
BTE-Dan
btedan@buildtheenterprise.org

Fictional Ships Approaching the Gen1 Enterprise in Size

August 27th, 2014

Some people have said that the Gen1 Enterprise is too big, but compared to the latest fictional ships the sizes are not all that different. See here for a discussion on why the Gen1 ship is so big.

Compare Gen1 Enterprise to Fictional Ships

Compare Gen1 Enterprise to Fictional Ships

 

Lifting the Entire Gen1 Enterprise to Orbit with the EmDrive

August 21st, 2014

If the EmDrive is real, the challenge of developing a low-cost launch system for getting things from Earth to orbit will be solved. And also – the ships going to orbit can be really big. In fact, a ship as big as the Gen1 Enterprise could be gradually moved upward into the thin upper atmosphere, and then electric propulsion engines like the VASIMR can slowly accelerate the ship until orbital velocity is reached. This reminds me of the airship-to-orbit concept promoted by John Powell. John’s idea is to float airship platforms far up in the atmosphere and then use electric propulsion engines to get ships launched from there up to orbital speed.

As I noted in a recent post, to an observer the EmDrive will appear to work as a kind of anti-gravity device. You can imagine a Gen1 Enterprise slowing ascending straight upward with no propellant being ejected. Once the big ship is 100km or so high the VASIMR-like engines can kick on and get the ship going parallel to the Earth’s surface.

It can work in reverse too. The Enterprise could slow down and then Earth’s gravity will begin to pull it downward. The EmDrives can be kicked on to enable a slow, controlled descent. The normal problem with todays’ high speed re-entries of dealing with the tremendous heat due to the ship’s hull hitting the air at high speeds is eliminated. Going to space and back will thus get a lot safer.

And if the Enterprise could be completely built on Earth and then moved to orbit – this would give a huge cost savings! It’s really expensive today in terms of $/kg to move any hardware into orbit and to do construction work in orbit. Being able to build the Enterprise on Earth would be incredibly efficient. Workers could simply drive to work every day. Materials for the ship could be brought in on trucks. It starts to remind you of this.

The EmDrive could be the key enabling technology to make the Gen1 Enterprise practical to build. Yep – perhaps we can Build the Enterprise by using breakthrough technologies to lower its overall cost.

NASA Microwave Thruster Test Paper Summary Table

August 16th, 2014

NASA Microwave Thruster Test Results

In my last post I said that NASA’s recent testing of EmDrive-like microwave cavity thrusters was not invalidated because they had different models of engines that both produced thrust. I should add that they did include a true dummy engine that was sure to produce no thrust because it was simply a 50 Ohm RF load. This load was simply a resistive load meaning that all it would do was heat up like a heating element. It’s well understood that a resistive load will not produce thrust when it is hit with RF energy.

The summary table above is from the full NASA paper. The last row shows the RF load test and that zero thrust was measured. All of the rows above that pertain to the two different models of EmDrive-like engines. Note that they reversed the orientation for each of the engines in the test set-up so that the thrust produced went in the opposite direction. The thrust reversed directions as expected. This is a good sanity check on the test set up.

I think the test results are looking more promising than many people think. Of course the force could still be produced by some interaction with the test environment that the researchers missed. That is why many more such tests must be run, and at different labs too, as is the normal course in science.

Regarding the science, it’s important to keep in mind that the NASA researchers are not the first to get positive results for a microwave cavity thruster. The paper notes:  ”Since 2004, researchers at the Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xi’an, Shaanxi, China, have been studying microwave-driven resonant cavity thrusters. In 2013, they published a paper that detailed their test campaign results and analysis methodology dealing with a very high powered RF resonant tapered cavity thruster prototype. … The thruster prototype was able to generate thrust magnitudes of over 700,000 micronewtons …”

700,000 micronewtons is equal to the force of .16 pounds. That is in the range where measurement errors due to instruments can be ruled out. If it is not real thrust being produced then there must be some force in play that both the Chinese researchers and NASA researchers are missing.

And of course Roger Shawyer himself, the EmDrive inventor, has also measured thrust from his propellantless engine.

I hope NASA funds a much bigger study of these types of engines soon. If these engines happen to really work, it may well be the beginning of one of the biggest technology breakthroughs of the 21st century.

NASA Needs to Repeat the Propellantless Thruster Study Soon

August 10th, 2014

In my last post I said that NASA researchers claimed to measure thrust on an experimental propellantless device. That’s quite interesting – but many people are pointing to what at first appears to be a big hole in the study. In their testing the researchers created a second device, a null device, that some thought was not going to create any thrust. But the null device that was designed to not create thrust was not just an empty box. This device had a powered microwave cavity too, but of a design that some thought would not produce thrust. As a result, the researchers ended up creating a shoot-out between two different microwave thruster designs.

It’s wrong to assume that because the null device also appeared to produce thrust that the whole experiment is an uncalibrated mess. Instead, the researchers simply created two devices where both appeared to produce thrust. Of course it could be there is some other explanation that will be found later that caused the apparent measured thrust such as local air heating producing a force or a magnetic attraction or whatever.

More clarification about the null device testing here.

NASA needs to improve these experiments and rerun them soon. This propellentless device study has received way too much public attention now to not be investigated much more closely.

One nice thing about all of this is that NASA may now be forced to set up an exhaustive experiment to see if these propellantless device ideas can really produce any thrust. We may get a pretty clear answer soon as to whether EmDrive-type engines can really work. I can’t wait to hear the results!

I should also point out that the critics who claim to be the purely objective scientists often have their own biases. For example, Ethan Siegel, who wrote up a critique of this NASA study couldn’t help but also add: ”It is not a space engine; it is an apparatus that does nothing different from an empty container.” In other words he has already said that the device can’t work even before the research is repeated to clarify what the science really says.

When I hear physicists saying that certain technological devices are impossible, it reminds me too much of all the physicists who have said and still say that LENR (Cold Fusion) can’t work either. I’m no fan of silly claimed inventions like perpetual motion machines, but the EmDrive and LENR are both very promising and are not in this category at all. Research for both of them keeps saying that there is something to them. LENR research is much, much farther along than the EmDrive-type engine research, but they are both promising enough based on the evidence to date that they should be receiving a lot more research attention. Nay-saying scientists who pass judgement too quickly are the primary reason for the slow progress in research in both of these areas of science.