DARPA sets out to build futuristic space exploration organization

NASA, DARPA look to organize 100 Year Starship Study

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What started out as an idea about how to further explore the outer reaches of space is now beginning to take more serious shape as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) today issued a call for industry information on how to form such as cosmic entity.

Specifically DARPA said it issued a Request For Information intended to solicit ideas and information on structure and approach, and identify parties qualified and interested in furthering what's known as the  100 Year Starship project.  DARPA says the 100 Year Starship Study is a project to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible.  The Department of Defense and NASA are also involved in the Starship project.

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DARPA said it expects to generate contracts for "initial start-up and early operating expenses for the organization not to exceed several hundred thousand dollars."  This RFI is intended to solicit ideas and information on structure and approach, and identify parties qualified and interested in furthering the 100 Year Starship effort. Subsequent Broad Area Announcements or Request for Proposals will likely ask for details on how the new organization will develop:

  • Methods for inspiring new generations of researchers,
  • Methods for obtaining initial and sustaining funding,
  • Branding and messaging for the long term research strategy,
  • Approach to an ongoing relationship to government research,
  • Proposed Handling of Intellectual property of researchers and future products,
  • Methods to incentivize researchers,
  • Specific types and domains of future research.
  • Long-term survivability over a century-long time horizon;
  • Self-governance, independent of government participation or oversight;
  • Self-sustainment, independent of government funding; and
  • Relevance to the goal of moving humanity toward the goal of interstellar travel, including related technological, biological, social, economic, and other issues.

"The 100-Year Starship study is about more than building a spacecraft or any one specific technology," said Paul Eremenko, DARPA coordinator for the study in a release. "We endeavor to excite several generations to commit to the research and development of breakthrough technologies and cross-cutting innovations across a myriad of disciplines such as physics, mathematics, biology, economics, and psychological, social, political and cultural sciences, as well as the full range of engineering disciplines to advance the goal of long-distance space travel, but also to benefit mankind."

DARPA also anticipates that the advancements achieved by such technologies will have substantial relevance to DoD mission areas including propulsion, energy storage, biology/life support, computing, structures, navigation, and others. Beyond the DoD and NASA, these investments will reinvigorate private entrepreneurs, the engineering and scientific community, and the world's youth in a bold quest for the stars, DARPA stated.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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