Interstellar Organizations

The following organizations are involved in advancing the cause of interstellar flight. Some of these organizations have members who are also in the Tau Zero Foundation network. The listing below is in chronological order, by the date of founding or incorporation of the organization. For current organizations, you can click their name to visit their website.

 

British Interplanetary Society

Incorporation: 1933

Supported by: Private donations, memberships, and volunteer help.

Although the British Interplanetary Society covers numerous issues related to space, the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS) has been, and still is, the leading journal for articles about interstellar flight.

Interstellar Focus:

  • Historic precedence for articles on interstellar topics.
  • Project Daedalus, the first realistic and complete starship design (1970s).
  • Leading journal for vetting interstellar flight issues, concepts, and discussions.
  • Continuing public outreach and conferences on interstellar topics.

 

The Planetary Society

Incorporation: 1980

Supported by: Private donations, memberships, and volunteer help.

Although The Planetary Society focuses on planetary space exploration, this includes occasional extensions into the realm of interstellar exploration. In particular, the society attempted to launch a space mission named Cosmos 1 to demonstrate the viability of solar sails for interplanetary and deeper space flight. With its broader scope, it is the largest of the space-exploration advocacy groups, and posts the following purpose: “to inspire the people of Earth – through education, research, and public participation – to explore other worlds and seek other life.”

Interstellar Focus:

  • Attempted space sail mission with future sail experiments planned.
  • Regular public outreach through publications and public involvement in research projects.

 

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute

Incorporation: 1984

Supported by: Grants, private donations, memberships, and volunteer help.

Started as a NASA program to listen for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth, SETI was cancelled by the US Congress and then resurrected with the help of a sizable endowment from wealthy individuals such as Paul Allen (Microsoft) and William Hewlett (Hewlett Packard). Its activities have expanded to include astrobiology.

Interstellar Focus:

  • Deals with the search for, and issues surrounding, extraterrestrial intelligence.
  • Significant contributions to astrobiology.
  • Ongoing observational work including both radio and optical SETI.
  • Education and public outreach programs about life in the universe.

 

Interstellar Propulsion Society

Operated: 1993-1995 – Later resurrected as the Tau Zero Foundation.

The first attempt at a society dedicated to propulsion, the most difficult facet of starflight. Among its 15 advisors were Robert Forward, Greg Matloff, Tony Martin, Geoff Landis, Bob Zubrin, and Marc Millis. With the advent of NASA’s work in 1995 on breakthrough propulsion, the society dissolved. When NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics project ended, the society was resurrected as the Tau Zero Foundation.

Interstellar Focus: Propulsion

 

Tau Zero Foundation and Centauri Dreams

Incorporation: 2006

Supported by: Memberships, Private donations and volunteer help

The Tau Zero Foundation is a global volunteer group of scientists, engineers, writers, and entrepreneurs working together to advance the goal of interstellar flight. It merged with the older Centauri Dreams news forum (2004) to become the leading organization in tracking progress on starflight. It is also collaborating with the Ohio Aerospace Institute to expand its graduate student program.

Interstellar Focus:

  • Leading organization for news and social media forum to get the news out about interstellar progress.
  • Collects and disseminates accurate information on the status and directions of related research.
  • First organization to explicitly include the relevance of humanity and societal issues to the exploration of interstellar flight.
  • Leader on ‘Breakthrough Propulsion Physics’ (faster-than-light flight and non-propellant drives), having published the key reference Frontiers of Propulsion Science (AIAA, 2009).

 

Faces from Earth

Founded: 2006 (not yet legally incorporated)

Supported by: Volunteers and donations

Founded to educate the public on space exploration and astronomy. In particular, to give every human on Earth a voice and a face that can be sent to the stars by ensuring that all deep space and interstellar missions have an information package containing images and more about our species and our world as we expand into the wider universe.

Interstellar Focus:

  • Promote interstellar travel as well as ensuring we are good citizens of the galaxy.
  • Mosaic Earth, building Earth images like the famous Blue Marble as a mosaic composition with faces of the people as tiles.
  • One Kilo Message, the design and construction of a time capsule of approximately 1 kg that could possibly be ready to fly on board a deep space mission.
  • Promote interstellar travel as well as ensuring we are good citizens of the galaxy

 

Global Starship Alliance (GSA)

Incorporation: 2011

The goal of GSA is “to launch a manned starship to the nearest potentially habitable exoplanet. Pursuing the challenge of interstellar travel will enhance the groundwork for a host of technologies that society needs today to ensure the sustainability of the Earth.”

Interstellar Focus:

  • Creation Aims to create of a consortium of space organizations to develop the capabilities for interstellar flight.
  • Developing and supporting several open source initiatives: OSSA, online group sharing views on interstellar flight; TEDxISU, TED Open Source Space; SpaceGambit, hackerspaces building interstellar technologies.
  • Create a venture capital fund dedicated to investing in promising technologies that have the potential to enable interstellar flight.

 

Icarus Interstellar

Founded: 2011

Supported by: Private donations and volunteer help

A spinoff of an original joint project between the Tau Zero Foundation and the British Interplanetary Society, Icarus Interstellar became its own organization in 2011 and received 501(c)(3) tax exemption in 2013. Quoting from its website, Icarus Interstellar is: “An Interstellar Research Organization Dedicated to Achieving Interstellar Flight by 2100.”

Interstellar Focus – Vehicle-mission studies to suggest and assess methods for various missions, including the following:

  • Project Icarus is a redesign of the British Interplanetary Society’s Project Daedalus, a fusion powered star probe.
  • Project Forward focuses on beamed sail missions.
  • Project Hyperion emphasizes worldship concepts.
  • Project Helius examines laser-initiated pulse propulsion.

 

Starship Century 

Founded: 2011

Supported by: Proceeds from interstellar related productions, beginning with the new book Starship Century.

Objectives: Increase knowledge and awareness of the issues and promise of interstellar exploration and expansion. Advocates expansion of civilization into the solar system as a prelude to exploration toward the nearer stars.

Interstellar Focus:

  • Conducting Starship Century Symposia, beginning with the first at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego, May 21-22 2013.
  • Producing books, beginning with Starship Century.
  • Funding interstellar research, consisting of experiments, theory and concept studies.  Funds will come initially from sales of the book Starship Century.

 

100 Year Starship

Incorporation: 2012

Supported by: DARPA, $500K seed money

100 Year Starship was initiated in response to a joint DARPA and NASA-Ames solicitation to create an organization that could last long enough to create the technical and financial foundations for starflight. The seed money was awarded to Dr. Mae Jemison to create the organization to lead the way to making interstellar flight a reality within 100 years, including engaging the world to join this endeavor.

Interstellar Focus:

  • Tasked to become the leading organization to bring together the financing, participation, and technical progress to enable starflight.
  • Emphasize the capabilities needed to accomplish human interstellar travel, which are the same ones required for successful human survival.
  • Design and implement independent, collaborative and open-source projects to advance and promote the public engagement, research, development and capabilities needed for humans to reach another star.
  • Regular public conferences.

 

Space GAMBIT

Incorporation: 2012

Supported by: DARPA, $500K seed money

Initiated in response to a DARPA grant offer for interstellar studies at the same time as the 100 Year Starship solicitation was underway. Quoting from its site: “SpaceGAMBIT is an international collaboration of space enthusiasts, operating through makerspaces, hackerspaces and other community groups. GAMBIT stands for Global Alliance of Makers Building Interstellar Technologies. We’re passionate about making space research and exploration accessible to everyone.”

Interstellar Focus: Focusing on, and limited to, research that can be accomplished by “hackerspace” groups: a group of more than three people that work together, sharing tools in venues from high school shop classes, fablabs, makerspaces and hackerspaces to garages, clubs, college facilities, etc.

 

Institute for Interstellar Studies (I4IS)

Founded: 2012 (not yet legally incorporated)

Supported by: Volunteers & donations

As an offshoot of Icarus Interstellar and the 100 Year Starship activities, Kelvin Long is seeking to establish an Institute for Interstellar Studies. Quoting from its site, its goal is: “to foster and promote education, knowledge and technical capabilities which lead to designs, technologies or enterprise that will enable the construction and launch of interstellar spacecraft…. Our bold vision is to be an organisation that is central to catalyzing the conditions in society over the next century to enable robotic and human exploration of the frontier beyond our Solar System and to other stars, as part of a long-term enduring strategy and towards a sustainable space-based economy.”

Interstellar Focus:

  • Proposal to establish a research institution dedicated to interstellar flight.
  • A research strategy ‘which pulls all of the other organizations together in a co-operative way.’
  • Invite significant investment that would support itself and other interstellar organizations.
  • Theoretical and experimental research programs.