The future is closer than we think. While we recognize that failures are part of birthing a new industry especially one like private space, the tragic failure of SpaceX's Falcon 9 on June 28 2015, signifies that rockets are too complex a technology to deliver long term repeatability.
Redesigning rocket & fuel systems to increase reliability is correct but at some point the incremental gain, which requires a rocket explosion does not justify the costs.
Having worked a decade in the semiconductor industry using mathematical models (in Excel, Pascal & SQL) to solve machine and process problems, to improve cycle-times, throughputs and reliability, I can say from experience that we need to change our paradigms.
Comparing rockets with the billions of gasoline engines on the road, with even more starts and stops, and no exploding engines, points to the need for a quantum leap in reliability. Can we develop a spacecraft propulsion system that is at least 7 orders of magnitude safer than rockets? Not 1, not 2 but 7.
We can write down one rule for this. It must be propellantless.
To incentivize this, we need a $50 million Propellantless Propulsion Lunar Prize (PPLP). Paul Allen, you who have done so much to push the frontiers of science, aeronautics and astronautics, would you consider participating? Would you team up donors with a pioneering interest, like Mark Zuckerberg?
The PPLP mission, if you choose to accept, "is to develop a robot that can successfully land on the moon's surface, travel at least 500 meters and then, transmit images back to Earth", without using rocket engines, and without public sector funding.
Is this possible? Yes. Let me give you a taste.
I don't do physics for physics sake. My interest is to invent the future before others do, and have submitted two papers for publication, "Designing Force Field Engines" and "Probabilities, the Physics of Interstellar Propulsion".
To realize propellantless propulsion we need to effect a force field or a Non Inertia (Ni) field. The simplest definition of a Ni field is one where a gradient of real or latent velocities exists across a distance. For example, along a radius of a spinning disc, the real spin velocity increases as you move outward. In gravitational fields, the latent orbital velocities increases as you approach the center of a planet or star.
Note (1) both accelerations are in the direction of increasing velocities, and (2) attraction or repulsion is determined by the spatial gradient of velocities, not by the source, and (3) a force field that is capable of field vectoring (direction) and field modulation (strength) is now achievable.
The formula to calculate any Ni field acceleration is g=tau.c^2. It is independent of the fields origin, whether mass (gravity), electromechanical (Podkletnov's experiments), mechanical motion, or electromagnetic (electron motion in a magnetic field). This universal approach to forces has not been achieved by any of our contemporary RSQ theories, Relativity, String or Quantum.
In their Kavli Institute video blog, Prof. Steinhardt and Prof. Efstathiou, state that the Planck Space Telescope data shows that the Universe is simpler than our contemporary theories. From this perspective per Occam's razor, g=tau.c^2 and Ni fields are on the right track, and point to a simplicity that is astonishing.
The simplicity of this universal approach to forces falsifies quantum theory's ever increasingly complex array of particles. Did you know that according to quantum theory there are an infinity(!) of particles within each proton and neutron? Ni Fields, which have been empirically tested, provides opportunities to build new types of engines at an Engineering Feasible macro level, without getting into this amazingly complicated subatomic particle difficulty. Therefore, is very compelling reason for the PPLP.
There are two basic approaches to launching vehicles using Ni fields.
First, effecting a directed acceleration from within the spacecraft. The simplest is a rotating spinning disc (aka Laithwaite' Big Wheel experiment and will discuss in a future post). For now it is sufficient to say that a spinning disc when rotated about its spin vector will evidence an acceleration that is orthogonal to both the spin and rotation. This allows for an enclosed propellantless propulsion. Roger Shawyer's EmDrive is another that may show promise.
Second, gravity modification with a tractor beam. For example, the Gravitational Column Launch using a matrix of Podkletnov-type devices to neutralize the gravitational field. This matrix is built beneath the launch pad. When powered up will neutralize gravity above it to allow the launch vehicle to float up into space. Powering down will pull the vehicle back to Earth. Though Podkletnov used superconducting magnetic fields, my investigation suggests that regular magnetic fields will do. Like the EmDrive this technology still needs more research.
How would the prize be structured?
Unfortunately, nothing for video communications or robotics, as these are not the primary objective of the prize. They can be purchased (donated?) and modified as necessary, and are required only to effect and prove lunar arrival and maneuvering.
Like the Google Lunar X Prize, the prizes would be awarded by milestones:
(1) First milestone, three $2.5 million prizes for the first proof of concepts that (desk top?) propellantless acceleration is achievable, and repeated three times, each on different days. Laithwaite's Big Wheel and gyroscopics are excluded.
(2) Second milestone, three $2.5 million prizes for the first prototypes that can hover and maneuver as a single enclosed robotic craft and transmit video, within the lab.
(3) Third milestone, for the first to prove the long haul, gets the remaining prize money on successful completion, i.e. announce launch, lunar arrival, maneuvering and video transmission.
(4) Fourth milestone, any sums raised that exceeds the $50 million to the first robot's team that returns to Earth.
Recall the Kline Directive . . . to be bold, to explore what others have not, to seek what others will not, and to change what others dare not . . .
The Propellantless Propulsion Lunar Prize will be a game changer. It will not only revolutionize physics, it will change industry, and make space exploration accessible to everyone.