Engineered Starships

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

  ~ Peter F. Drucker



1953, Engineering physics for interstellar travel, Eugen Sanger, “Eugen Sänger, Zur Theorie der Photonenraketen.” (Vortrag auf dem 4. Internationalen Astronautischen Kongreß in Zürich 1953).- Ing. Arch. 21 (1953), S. 213-226.- Probleme der Weltraumforschung, Verlag Laupscher, Biel 1954, S. 32-40.


Re-thinking the Antimatter Rocket


The Interstellar Conundrum Reconsidered

Image Credit:Young Technician




1958, “Project Orion” using nuclear detonation propulsion, S. Ulam, T. Taylor, & F. Dyson, “Nuclear Pulse Space Vehicle Study,” General Atomic.


Beginnings of the Interstellar Idea


An Interstellar Provocation


Can Project Orion Be Re-Born?


Looking Back at Orion


1960, “Bussard Ramjet” using on-the-fly-fusing of indigenous space protons, R. Bussard, “Galactic Matter and Interstellar Flight,” Astronautica Acta.


A Brief Window


Catalyzed Fusion: Tuning Up the Ramjet


Remembering Robert Bussard


Tuning Up the Interstellar Ramjet


Braking Against a Stellar Wind






1977, “Voyager 1 & 2″ using a chemical rocket, JPL et al (, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


Voyager and the Will to Explore” 


Reflections on a Mythic Voyager


Voyager 1 Nearing Interstellar Space


Voyager in the Doldrums


The Enduring Legacy of the Voyagers


Credit: NASA



Credit: Alex Szames

1978, “Project Daedalus,” using a nuclear fusion rocket, Alan Bond, et al, British Interplanetary Society


Remembering Project Daedalus


Fusion and the Starship


Daedalus size compared to Saturn V moon rocket. 

1984, Laser-beamed sail, Robert Forward, “Roundtrip Interstellar Travel Using Laser-Pushed Lightsails,” Journal of Spacecraft & Rockets.


Laser Beamed Interstellar Mission: A New Take


Laser Beaming to Boost Solar Sails

1985, “Starwisp” using beamed microwave energy to sails, R. Forward, “Starwisp: an Ultralight Interstellar Probe,” American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics


The Case for Beamed Sails


Remembering Starwisp

1987, “VISTA” using a nuclear fusion rocket, Charles D. Orth, “VISTA – A Vehicle for Interplanetary Space Transport Application Powered by Inertial Confinement Fusion,” Lawrence Livermore National Lab.


Creating Stars in the Laboratory


Prior Visions of Star Flight




... Will the designer/artist of this image please contact us for due credit.

1987, “TAU (Thousand Astronomical Units)” using nuclear-electric ion propulsion, JPL, et al, “Tau — A Mission to a Thousand Astronomical Units,” Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


A Practical Mission to the Interstellar Medium


Dark Energy: Calibrating Standard Candles



Image: An earlier concept called Realistic Interstellar Explorer, a key step in refining the design for the current mission concept. 

1988, “Project Longshot” using nuclear pulse propulsion, Beals, K. A., M. Beaulieu, F. J. Dembia, J. Kerstiens, D. L. Kramer, J. R. West and J. A. Zito, “Project Longshot: An Unmanned Probe To Alpha Centauri,” U. S Naval Academy.


Project Longshot: Fast Probe to Centauri




... Will the designer/artist of this image please contact us for due credit.

1999, “AIMStar” using antimatter catalyzed nuclear propulsion, Raymond A. Lewis, Kirby Meyer, Gerald A. Smith and Steven D. Howe, “AIMStar: Antimatter Initiated Microfusion For Pre-cursor Interstellar Missions,” Pennsylvania State University.


Antimatter’s Advantages (and the Catch)



A Practical Positron Rocket?


ICAN-II a precursor to AIMStar, shown open and closed.

2003, “Innovative Interstellar Explorer” using nuclear electric rocket, Ralph McNutt, “Mission Design for the Innovative Interstellar Explorer Vision Mission” NASA (ongoing).


Update on Innovative Interstellar Explorer


Innovative Interstellar Explorer: A Response to Questions



An early Innovative Interstellar Explorer design concept. 

2009, “Project Icarus,” using nuclear fusion rocket, Icarus Interstellar (numerous papers, ongoing).


Project Icarus: Contemplating Starship Design


Icarus: Revisiting the Daedalus Starship


Project Icarus: Finding the Fuel




Icarus accelerating. 

2012, Gravitational Lens Deep Space Probe Design, 2nd Lt. Berkley Davis, Masters Thesis, US AFIT.  Based on Commercially available hardware to determine realistic baseline


The FOCAL Mission: To the Sun’s Gravity Lens


A FOCAL Mission into the Oort Cloud


The Gravitational Lens and Communications




1950, Colony ships using hollowed out asteroids –  John Campbell in Analog Science Fact & Fictions Magazine, Illustrations by Roy D. Scaffo, Scaffo Studio

Analog asteroid

Content Contributors

  • Brandon Vernon
  • Curtis Wilbur
  • Tatiana Covington
  • Yusif Nurizade
  • Geoff Landis
  • Marc Millis
  • Paul Gilster

The Tau Zero Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to pioneering advancements toward interstellar flight.