Interstellar design

1 minute read

Popular Mechanics has an article that goes through some of the basics of space flight design principles: “What would a starship actually look like?”

One look at the Icarus designor its predecessor, the Daedalusand its clear what starships dont need: wings. The only real-world spacecraft that bother with wings are ones designed to make regular landings on runways, such as the retired Space Shuttle, the upcoming Lynx (a suborbital two-seater from XCOR) or the Dream Chaser, an in-development orbital craft from Sierra Nevada. And wings arent even required for landings. Like the Russian Soyuz capsule, SpaceXs Dragon currently splashes down in the ocean (though SpaceX plans to move toward rocket-powered launchpad landings).
In both the near and far-term future, experts such as Millis imagine interstellar vessels wont spend much of their time in an atmosphere. Perhaps the small ships that carry people from surface to starship will remain winged, but truly interstellar vehicles can scrap aerodynamics and all of the design principles that are beholden to reducing wind resistance.

I got to spend a little time sitting in the Lynx prototype last fall, and I have to say it was pretty awesome.

Of course the large ships that would be capable of interplanetary or interstellar voyages have very different design requirements than something meant to land on Earth. My interest in these is broader than aeronautical design: What are the human requirements of sustaining a population for dozens or hundreds of years?