West Midlands Branch Talks (17 November 2018)

Date: 17 November 2018

Start Time: 1.45 pm
End Time: 4.30 pm

Venue: The Gardeners Arms, Vines Lane, Droitwich, WR9 8LU. PLEASE NOTE THERE IS NO DISABLED ACCESS TO THE VENUE.

Talk 1: Starship Engineering – How to Design a Starship

To many, certainly outside the BIS, it may seem like science fiction that there are people today trying to work out how the human race might really travel to the stars. Worldwide there are professionals, part-timers, students and enthusiasts working toward this goal right now, dreaming big and holding a realistic expectation their goal will be achieved, if not by themselves personally, perhaps the next generations in the decades to come.

In this talk, Rob Swinney a retired RAF squadron leader engineering officer, will look at the background to designing Starships, illustrate the challenges involved through some seminal work of the past and bring things up to date with a look at the surge in spacecraft designs and designing in an effort to bring what was just imagination in to reality. 

Nuclear fusion is arguably one of the most plausible near-term solutions for deep space travel and he will highlight the work of the BIS, from the renowned fusion powered Project Daedalus concept in the 1970s to current activities, such as Project Icarus which now involve other organisations and collaborations. Project Icarus was launched in 2009 at the BIS HQ in London to revisit Daedalus and evolve an improved engineering design and move us closer to achieving interstellar exploration. Now a collaboration between members of Icarus interstellar, Inc, a US non-profit, and the BIS, the key was to produce a credible design and mission profile using near future technology along with other similar terms of reference to the Daedalus.

After years of struggle among members of the ‘interstellar community’, with little budget or investment (what ROI…?), a Russian billionaire philanthropist is planning to spend $100 million over 10 years in his Breakthrough Initiative Starshot programme which should show how to send a laser sail probe to the nearest target in the next 20 years. This may well see the start of a new space race; this time to the stars.

Speaker – Robert Swinney BSc MSc CEng MIET FBIS RAF (ret’d)

In the 1980s Rob Swinney completed his BSc in Astrophysics at the University of Newcastle and his MSc in Radio Astronomy at the University of Manchester. After several years teaching Craft, Design and Technology at Sherborne School for Boys he returned to his studies and graduated from Cranfield University with a further MSc in Avionics and then undertook a rewarding career in the RAF as an aerosystems engineering officer. He completed his commission in 2006 having attained the rank of squadron leader.

Rob is a Chartered Engineer, a Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. His early research was published in Nature and The Astrophysical Journal and later work in the Journal of the BIS. He was one of the first to join the BIS design study for an interstellar probe, Project Icarus and he is the current Project Leader. He is a member of the non-profit organisation, Icarus Interstellar, and is co-founder and currently Director Academy of the Initiative for Interstellar Studies.

As a youngster Rob followed the Apollo adventure and the Grand Tours of the Voyager spacecraft. Today, he believes the ‘planets are aligning’ again, and organisations like the Initiative for Interstellar Studies, Breakthrough Initiatives and, of course, the British Interplanetary Society and the will prove that although extraordinarily difficult, real steps to interstellar travel are being taken.

We have had to postpone the CHEVALINE and the Twin Chamber Propulsion Unit talk. The good news is that we have been offered a talk on a design study for a UK built moon launcher! For details see below.

Speaker Ian Johnston http://www.rocket-workshops.co.uk/

After a lifetime working on the design and modelling of solid propellant rocket motors I took early retirement and set up as a consultant and have been involved in a number of weird and wonderful projects. So I was not too surprised when I was approached by a TV company to undertake a feasibility study for a project that James May had dreamed up.

Essentially he wanted a group of “men in sheds” to build a rocket to send a small spacecraft to the moon. At first this seemed impossibly unlikely. But the time is right, and the technology is becoming available. It really could be done!

In this talk I will take you through the planning and modelling we undertook to determine whether this was possible – the result might surprise you!

Please Note – There is no wheelchair access to the venue!


The event is free to attend!


More info on the branch can be found on its Facebook page here

It would help us know numbers attending – please register using the form below.

[contact-form-7 id=”11730″ title=”BIS West Midlands Group”]

Be sociable; support the BIS!