Technical Projects

The BIS has a long and proud history of providing thought leadership in space exploration, and through the Technical Committee, we ensure a rigorous process of selection and management of new technical schemes.

The ‘Engineering for Mars’ project aims to support different studies to evaluate and propose common engineering guidelines for Mars projects.

This project is driven by the need for a paradigm shift in the way Mars landing, settlement and colonisation projects are handled. This shift reflects the need to design equipment, not only for a one-shot exploration trip, but to support a sustained presence on the Red Planet.

Every piece of hardware delivered to the surface should be designed to take into account standardised interfaces, common components, local maintenance and re-purposing.

This project aims to define approaches, guidelines, and criteria for the “engineering sustainability” of anything which will be deployed on Mars.

From general concepts on materials and processes, to more detailed considerations about interfaces and functionalities, as well as present and future mission requirements, the project will try to suggest best practices to minimise the wastes and the risks, and increase the options for a permanent human presence.

This project will produce papers, technical notes and educational and outreach opportunities, to bring the issues considered to a wider audience.

This is an ideal project also to generate topics for BSc and MSc thesis in different sectors.

Project Summary

Name: Engineering for Mars

Dates: Dec 2022, ongoing

Summary: To define approaches, guidelines, and criteria for the “engineering sustainability” of anything which will be deployed on Mars and will be part of a human settlement.

Project deliverables: Papers, Technical Notes, Educational and Outreach opportunities, academic thesis.

Long-term goal: Evaluate common engineering standard to facilitate conversion of terrestrial equipment to the Martian environment and to improve the sharing of common parts, technologies and interfaces among different equipment.

Technology timeframe: Near-term (Present – 2030)

BIS involvement: The project will be managed by BIS members and Fellows, but will also accept external contributions.

Current BIS activity: Roadmap definition, first study on materials standards, first conceptual project (Martian time-keeper).

Progress so far: Early stage.

BIS leader/contact: Fabrizio Bernardini, Patrick Rennie

The ‘Tokamak Nuclear Electric Propulsion’ project began in 2016 and aims to produce a realistic and viable fusion space platform design using modifications to terrestrial fusion power plant concepts that can produce a power plant that can deliver specific powers over 1kW/kg with times between maintenance greater than 3 years.

The project aims to describe the important subsystems, such as:

  • Fusion plasma characteristics and tokamak specification,
  • Space platform systems engineering
  • Combined biological shield and primary working fluid
  • High temperature and efficiency thermal to electric conversion from neutron flux to power bus
  • Nitrogen cooled high field (~30T) high temperature superconducting magnet sets
  • Mechanical analysis on low density, high strength advanced materials
  • Energy storage and tokamak operation
  • Tritium breeding, launch and handling
  • Qualification
  • Orbital build and maintenance
  • Space segment (i.e. main thrusters, RCS, propellant, space structures etc.)
  • Mission specification and potential payloads

BIS Leader/contact:  David Homfray

The Q-Cube (a Quarter sized CubeSat) is primarily intended as a route to viable education satellite projects for secondary school pupils and undergraduate students.
However given a Q-Cube project could be completed for around £10,000 (including launch) it may also have secondary applications for industry and academia as a technical flight demonstration platform for new nanosatellite products and components.

Project Summary

Name: Project Q Cube

Dates: May 2016 to Dec 2017

Summary: To make a prototype satellite intended for school and undergraduate projects

Project deliverables: A prototype Q-Cube Satellite (hopefully flown) and an instruction/guidebook for use by educational project teams

Long-term goal: To encourage the use of practical and flown satellites as an option for STEM education.

Technology timeframe: Near-term (Present – 2020)

BIS involvement: The BIS Q-Cube will be a complete project. Hopefully other trial projects will run in parallel leading to a combined launch.

Current BIS activity: KickSat Project starts the BIS capability in flown satellites, Q-Cube would extend this.

Progress so far: The Q-Cube satellite is in development with Hempsell Astronautics and is close to Engineering Model construction and that company will donate a structure, power and computing package as the basis for the project.

BIS leader/contact: Mark Hempsell

The SLV (Small Launch Vehicle) Project designed a rocket to launch small satellites from the UK.

The SLV9, one possible version (click to enlarge)

All aspects were studied. The launch configurations under consideration were based not just on technical merit, but also on whether they could support a business model that could provide access to space for payloads at prices that customers were prepared to pay.

The SLV Project recognised that orbital launches from the UK imposed constraints best met by a vehicle designed for the purpose rather than imported from elsewhere. The design process included state of the art trajectory analysis to ensure that realistic and safe ascents to orbit could be made from the UK’s unique physical and regulatory environment.

Below: An SLV9 IHT (Intercepted Hohmann Transfer) ascent from Unst in the Shetland Islands to a 500 km altitude SSO orbit, inclination 97.5°.


The SLV Project had evolved from the “BIS NLV Feasibility Study” that began in early 2016 and produced a “Final Report” in April 2018. This concluded that orbital access to space from the UK was feasible and could be investor funded, and implemented by a vertical-launch vehicle from the north of Scotland. (For a copy see “Further Information” below.) During this initial study, papers were also presented at various space conferences such as RISpace 2017 and 2018, and articles appeared in the BIS ‘Spaceflight’ magazine.

Phase 2
After the publication of the Final Report in 2018, “Phase 2” of the work began in order to examine various aspects in more detail. Project members continued to meet at the BIS HQ in London for Working Days every three months or so, interspersed by regular Skype sessions supplemented by email contact. However this phase has now been completed and the project has ended.

Further information
To download a pdf copy of the original BIS NLV study 2018 “Final Report”:
(i) For part 1 only (179 KB) click here
(ii) For the full version (3.1 MB) click here


The SPACE project began in 2013 in order to:

  • Re-examine the Space Colonies studies, led by Gerard O’Neill in the 1970s, investigating how the advancements since then in materials, technology and other areas could lead to improvements in the colonies’ design and construction.
  • To report on this study, including the effects on life on Earth, and other aspects, which could include solar power satellites.

Apart from providing a safety net in the event of catastrophe striking the Earth – be it man- made (which appeared a possibility at the time) or through other means – it was shown that building the colonies could bring enormous benefits to those remaining on Earth. In fact O’Neill showed that most of the major problems facing the Earth – which are still with us today – could be addressed by these vast construction projects in space.

Throughout history competition has helped to incentivise progress in science. The American aviator Charles Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize in 1927 for example, which was a non-stop flight from New York’s Long Island to Paris, France, covering a distance of 3,600 statute miles (5,800 km) in a single seat, single engine, purpose built monoplane known as the Spirit of St.Louis. This caused a dramatic change in the passenger aircraft industry, taking people from the United States to Europe in a matter of hours. Similarly, in 1996 Peter Diamandis set up the now famous Ansari X-prize competition, to open up sub-orbit space flights to the wider population. This was won by Burt Rutan of Scaled Composites using the SpaceShipOne Spaceplane in 2004.

The British Interplanetary Society is now in discussions with The Initiative for Interstellar Studies (I4IS) [], and the UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS) [] about launching a new technical design project which sees students around the world compete for an award, as part of an interstellar based engineering exercise. Called the “Alpha Centauri Prize”, after the nearest star system to our solar system, this competition is sure to lead to innovative breakthroughs in design concepts, whilst educating students about the possibilities of space exploration.

Unfortunately, Project KickSat is now dormant until NASA provides a new launch opportunity. The Cornell University team behind it are currently concentrating on other projects, but should things change, the BIS will hopefully become involved again.

This was an exciting project in collaboration with Cornell University, USA. Zac Manchester was experimenting with the design, build and testing of very small and inexpensive spacecraft called “Sprites”. The aim was to have them launched into Low Earth Orbit for just a few hundred dollars each. Sprites are the size of a couple of postage stamps but have solar cells, a radio transceiver and a microcontroller (tiny computer) with memory and sensors.

Essentially the capabilities of bigger spacecraft were scaled down. The first versions to be launched would have been quite primitive, with the transmission of not much more than a name and a few bits of data, but it was hoped that future versions could have included any type of sensor to fit within it, from thermometers to cameras. The KickSat itself was a CubeSat, a standardised small satellite that could host the many Sprites and launch them into space via a spring loading.

BIS Involvement

The project involved the BIS collaborating with the main ‘KickSat’ project team. Originally, around a dozen members of the BIS pledged money to purchase a BIS fleet of spacecraft. The Sprites were made in bulk in the US, and several were received by BIS members for test and programming, were upgraded to be fully functioning, and used to test the receiving equipment.

Altogether, about 10-15 BIS members were involved (see for instance the photograph in ‘Spaceflight’ Vol 55 October 2013, p.386). BIS members programmed two sprites, and the code was incorporated in at least one other, the final code uploading and Sprite test taking place in the USA.

What Should Have Happened

This remarkable animation shows what should have happened:

Once launched, a world-wide network of amateur ground stations would have tracked and recorded the radio signals to demonstrate their capabilities.

What Did Happen

The BIS coded Sprites were on board the first KickSat (CubeSat mothership), which reached orbit at 335 km via a Falcon 9 rocket in April 2014 (see ‘Spaceflight’ Satellite Digest-510, July 2015 p.250) and transmitted beacon signals that were received by radio amateurs. Telemetry data allowed the prediction of the orbit and re-entry on 15 May 2014 at about 01:30 UTC. On May 4th, 16 days after launch, the Sprites were due to be deployed. However on April 30th (some 12 days after launch) a hard reset of the “watchdog” microcontroller on KickSat resulted in the main timer being reset to day 1 (probably by radiation)

Unfortunately efforts to sort this out failed, and before the reset timer could run its 14-day course, KickSat re-entry occurred, and the Sprites were burned up inside the KickSat mothership. However BIS members Andrew Vaudin and Kelvin Long (and possibly others) did at least get their names into space for a short while.

Subsequently, both NASA and Cornell University agreed to proceed with a KickSat-2. Zac Manchester, Cornell University and NASA improved the CubeSat based on lessons learned from KickSat 1.This was originally scheduled for launch in August 2016 on Cygnus CRS OA-5, (aka Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 5). Unfortunately, the integration deadline was missed, apparently because a radio communication licence not applied for in time.

Hence the KickSat-2 spacecraft is still with NASA, but awaits another launch opportunity. However this may not be for a while, because the NASA announcement on 17/2/17 ( of CubeSat launches for the next three years (until 2020) did not include Cornell University, nor KickSat-2.

In 1984 the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society published papers considering the design of a World Ship. This is a very large vehicle many tens of kilometres in length and having a mass of millions of tons, moving at a fraction of a per cent of the speed of light and taking hundreds of years to millennia to complete its journey. It is a self-contained, self-sufficient ship carrying a crew that may number hundreds to thousands and may even contain an ocean, all directed towards an interstellar colonisation strategy.
In 2012 a symposium was organised by Kelvin Long and Richard Osborne, of the BIS Technical Committee, to discuss both old and new ideas in relation to the concept of a World Ship. This one-day event was an attempt to reinvigorate thinking on this topic and to promote new ideas and focussed on the concepts, cause, cost, construction and engineering feasibility, as well as sociological issues associated with the human crew. All of the presentations were eventually written up and published as papers in a special issue of the journal. The papers featured included:

  • World Ships: The Solar-Photon Sail Option, Gregory L. Matloff
  • World Ships – Architectures and Feasibility Revisited, Andreas M. Hein, Mikhail Pak,  Daniel Pütz et al.
  • On the Organization of World Ships and Other Gigascale Interstellar Space Exploration Projects, Frederik Ceyssens, Maarten Driesen and Krisof Wouters
  • The Emergence of the Worldship (I): The Shift from Planet-Based to Space-Based Civilization, Stephen Ashworth
  • The Emergence of the Worldship (II): A Development Scenario, Stephen Ashworth
  • Communication with World Ships – Building the Disaporanet, Pat Galea
  • The Enzmann Starship: History and Engineering Appraisal, Adam Crowl, Kelvin F. Long, Richard Obousy
  • The Long-Term Growth Prospects for Planetary and Space Colonies, Stephen Ashworth

The Enzmann Starship, credit: David A.Hardy

It is worth highlighting one of these papers for special notice, which is the Enzmann Starship paper. The project was led by BIS Fellow Kelvin F. Long in collaboration with the US non-profit organisation Icarus Interstellar and members Richard Obousy and Adam Crowl. This is a concept for a space colonisation Starship, a Slow Boat, that was created by the physicist Robert Enzmann in the mid-1960s.
Not much was previously known about the design, and the authors conducted an exhaustive literature survey for every available bit of information on the design and its origins. This even included discussions with Robert Enzmann himself, through a third party. The authors decided on the final design, which was said to be a 30,000 ton vessel carrying 3 million tons of Deuterium propellant for the fusion based engines. It would start off on its journey with a population of 200 people and after traveling to the nearest stars for 60 years at 9% of the speed of light, it would arrive at its destination stars with a population of 2,000 people, ready to begin colonisation of the local star system. An illustration of the Enzmann Starship concept (commissioned by Long in 2011) by the space artist David A. Hardy is shown here.

Alternatively, the individual papers can be ordered direct from the JBIS web site here:

JBIS Vol 65 No 04/05 – April-May 2012
1. World Ships: The Solar-Photon Sail Option (Matloff) :
2. World Ships – Architectures & Feasibility Revisited (Hein et al): 
3. On the Organisation of World Ships and Other Gigascale Interstellar Space Exploration Projects (Ceyssens et al):
4. The Emergence of the Worldship (I): The Shift from Planet-Based to Space-Based Civilisation (Ashworth):
5. The Emergence of the Worldship (II): A Development Scenario (Ashworth):

JBIS Vol 65 No 06 – June 2012

1. Communication with World Ships – Building the Diasporanet (Galea):
2. The Enzmann Starship: History and Engineering Appraisal (Crowl et al):
3. The Long-Term Growth Prospects for Planetary and Space Colonies (Ashworth):


Officially named “Project Icarus: son of Daedalus – flying closer to another star”, this project was initially discussed in 2008 from discussions between Kelvin Long and Marc Millis, then at the NASA Glenn Research Centre. Subsequently, the project was founded by Long and Richard Obousy and formally launched in September 2009 in London. The papers for this event were eventually published in a special issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (2010 issue, V62)

Virtual Icarus – image copyright Adrian Mann

The purpose of Project Icarus is as follows:

  1. To design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission in the coming centuries
  2. To allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and provide an assessment of the maturity of fusion based space propulsion for future precursor missions
  3. To generate greater interest in the real term prospects for interstellar precursor missions that are based on credible science
  4. To motivate a new generation of scientists to be interested in designing space missions that go beyond our solar system.

With these goals it is the hope that Project Icarus will reinvigorate the subject of interstellar research, producing a new generation of capable designers able to do the engineering calculations required for all sorts of interstellar assessments whilst also providing some useful intellectual output.

There are several Terms of Reference for the Project Icarus study which essentially represent the engineering requirements. These are as follows:

  1. To design an unmanned probe that is capable of delivering useful scientific data about the target star, associated planetary bodies, solar environment and the interstellar medium
  2. The spacecraft must use current or near future technology and be designed to be launched as soon as is credibly determined
  3. The spacecraft must reach its stellar destination within as fast a time as possible, not exceeding a century and ideally much sooner
  4. The spacecraft must be designed to allow for a variety of target stars
  5. The spacecraft propulsion must be mainly fusion based (e.g. Daedalus)
  6. The spacecraft mission must be designed so as to allow some deceleration for increased encounter time at the destination.

The Terms of Reference were of considerable debate during the early formation days of the project, with team members striving to get the balance right between being sufficiently bold and credible – Project Daedalus faced the same dilemma.
One of the controversial decisions was to state that the propulsion system must be mainly fusion based, this was stipulated because fusion based propulsion is believed to be one of the very strong candidates for how we may someday go to the stars, but also to maintain continuity with Project Daedalus and capture the nostalgia associated with that Project. One benefit in adopting this strategy is that this enables the Technology Readiness Level of fusion based propulsion to be directly measured today (currently at a TRL of around 2-3) and compared to the 1970s – thereby also enabling an estimate for the pace of progress in advanced space propulsion.

The requirement for some deceleration of the probe clearly distinguishes the Icarus vehicle from the original flyby Daedalus study, although the permitted century duration mission profile should allow for this added complexity.

The British Interplanetary Society collaborated on the Project Icarus initiative, and it has the full support of the original Project Daedalus Study Group, who are involved in an advisory capacity.

One of the ways Project Icarus stands out from Project Daedalus is the large international nature of the project, with design team members on several major continents and located both above and below the equator. This model is possible due to the use of the World Wide Web; a luxury not afforded to the original Project Daedalus team.

The aim is to progress the Daedalus concept to an improved and more credible design, in the light of technological and scientific developments. The project demonstrates that once again the British Interplanetary Society is at the forefront of credible speculation in a pioneering subject that may someday come to fruition.

More about the history of the BIS Project Daedalus can be found in: Project Daedalus: Demonstrating the Engineering Feasibility of Interstellar Travel.

More about Project Icarus can be read on the design teams web site, Icarus Interstellar.

The warp drive is a theoretical mechanism for travelling faster than the speed of light, which moves at approximately 300,000 km/s. Since the late 1940s, warp drive has been featured in many science fiction stories, especially the TV series Star Trek, created by Gene Rodenberry. Aerospace engineers use something called a Technology Readiness ladder to scale technology maturity, and on this scale warp drive is at a level 1.0, which means conjecture. This is because currently it’s just fantasy, and we don’t even have any idea for the basic principles of physics by which the warp drive effect could be activated, let alone engineered.

Theoretical Warp Drive from “How to Colonise the Stars” documentary

That said, nature does allow for warp drives. When Albert Einstein wrote his famous Special and General Relativity papers in 1905 and 1915 respectively he stated that it was impossible for objects with mass to exceed the speed of light, this is because the equations showed an exponential increase in momentum and therefore energy would be required, the closer you get to the actual number. Any spacecraft that does approach this barrier, will undergo a form of time dilation, but the vehicle can never exceed the speed of light through space. What people don’t always realise however, is that it is perfectly allowed within the laws of physics for space itself to exceed this speed. This is exactly what happened during the beginning of the Universe when it underwent a period called inflation; the Universe grew exponentially in size within a fraction of a second. So, space can expand – can space also collapse? Indeed, it can.

The Alcubierre Warp Drive Metric

Physicists and Astronomers have studied stars and their gravity through the ages and they have discovered, mainly through Einstein’s revelations, that space will bend around an object with mass. For a dying star greater than around 3 times the mass of our Sun, when it gets to the end of its life, the star will collapse in on itself and create a black hole – an object with a gravity field so intense, that the escape velocity exceeds that of light itself – hence not even light can escape and so the object becomes non-luminous. It is these effects from the nature of space expanding (as in the Big Bang formation) and space collapsing (as in a Black Hole) that are the principles upon which the warp drive effect may operate, if it could ever be engineered.
The collapse and expansion rate is what determines the speed of the warp bubble surrounding any vessel. The problem however, is the requirement for enormous amounts of negative energy in order to induce the warp drive effect.

In 1994 the physicist Miguel Alcubierre published a paper in Classical & Quantum Gravity titled “The Warp Drive: Hyper-fast Travel Within General Relativity”, which showed at least in 1-dimension, a mathematical formulation for describing the geometry of a warp bubble, and its negative energy requirements. Although the subject remained conjecture, this changed the landscape of breakthrough physics research and a flurry of papers were published thereafter, coming up with new “metric equations”, or deriving new negative energy requirements, using quantum field theory and General Relativity. So it was that in 2007 BIS Fellow Kelvin Long organised a conference dedicated to the Warp Drive titled “Warp Drive: Faster than Light – Breaking the Interstellar Distance Barrier”. This may have been one of the first such dedicated events in history and it showed that even now the British Interplanetary Society was at the forefront of daring visionary speculation. A symposium took place on 15th November 2007 in which several speakers attended from around the world, all gathered to review the warp drive. The papers presented and the authors speaking were as follows:

  • The Status of the Warp Drive, Kelvin F. Long
  • Warp Drive: From Imagination to Reality, Jeremy Gardiner
  • Computer Tensor Codes to Design the Warp Drive, Claudio Maccone
  • Warp Drive: A New Approach, Richard K. Obousy and Gerald Cleaver
  • Casimir Energy: A Fuel for Traversable Wormholes, Remo Garattini
  • Can The Flyby Anomalies Be Explained by a Modification of Inertia? Mike.E. McCulloch.

This was reported in the special issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol.61, No.9, September 2008.

Alternatively, the individual papers can be ordered direct from the JBIS web site here:

JBIS Vol 61 No 09 – September 2008

1. The Status of the Warp Drive, (Long):
2. Warp Drive: From Imagination to Reality (Gardiner):
3. Computer Tensor Codes to Design the Warp Drive, (Maccone):
4. Warp Drive: A New Approach (Obousy & Cleaver):
5. Casimir Energy: A Fuel for Traversable Wormholes (Garattini):
6. Can The Flyby Anomalies Be Explained by a Modification of Inertia? (McCulloch):

During the symposium, the film producer Christian Darkin was present and he interviewed many of the participants. He also collaborated with Kelvin Long to produce a credible warp drive machine that “broke as few of the laws of physics as possible”, based on the large literature review performed and the list of 19 defined physics and engineering problems from Long’s published paper “The Status of the Warp Drive”. The end result was only partly successful, but was shown in the eventual documentary along with the interviews from the various participants of the symposium. 

Project Boreas

In 2006 members of The British Interplanetary Society, led by the scientist Charles Cockell published an extensive report on the design of a human base located at the Martian North Pole. This was Project Boreas, and was named after the Greek God of the North Wind. The study ran from 2003 and was an international project involving over 25 scientists and engineers. Its primary aim was to design a station to carry out science and exploration in the Martian polar region. In particular, the retrieval of a core sample from the polar ice cap was seen as a primary objective of the mission giving vital information about the Martian geological and climatological variations throughout the planet’s history.

The crew would be up to 10 people remaining on the surface for 1173 sol-days. Any crew would have to deal with psychological and social problems with being confined within a small space and with the same people for so long. The crew would be kept busy by solving many technical problems as they occur, or by focusing on the science objectives of the mission.

The study conclusions allowed for flexibility in exploration objectives, relating to the subjects of geology, geophysics, astronomy, climatology and astrobiology. The crew would embark on daily expeditions across the planet’s surface and make many discoveries to report back to Earth. The station was designed with present-day technology and considered all aspects to the station such as the power requirements, thermal control, science laboratories, human habitation and life support systems. Other aspects to the mission were also considered such as surface drilling and surface transportation.

The proposed mission date for such a station was 2038 with a crew staying for the duration of the mission, lasting three summers and two winters, and then returning to Earth in 2042, several years later.

Exploration based missions like that proposed for Project Boreas will make eventual human colonization of Mars possible. Humans have walked upon the surface of the Moon and many consider Mars to the be next logical step. When the international space agencies finally decide to make the first attempt, the British Interplanetary Society can be proud of its contribution as proposed in Project Boreas and many other papers published in JBIS over the years.

Please click here to purchase a copy of the Project Boreas Report.

In 1929 John Desmond Bernal designed a concept for a visionary form of interstellar space structure. Known thereafter as a “Bernal sphere”, the vessel was essentially constructed from asteroid and Moon material, 16 km in diameter with a population of around 20,000 people. An atmosphere would be provided within the structure so that it became a self-contained habitat. The outer shell would be hard, transparent and thin, preventing the escape of gas and allow for the preservation of a rigid structure. The Bernal sphere was mainly designed as a space habitat, but this visionary idea laid the ground work for the more rigorous studies that were to follow.
The American engineer Gerrard K.O’Neill took this work to a new level in the 1970s when he also designed large human habitat structures that could accommodate tens of thousands of people. O’Neill planned that such structures would be located at the L5 point in space, a region where the gravity from the Moon, Earth and Sun is neutral.

A Modern Depiction of the Bond/Martin “Wet World Ship” Mining the Gas Giant Planets for Fuel

The work on large space habitats laid the groundwork for an even more visionary idea, that of giant World Ships – vessels that would travel the distances between the stars. The motivations for developing World Ships related to the long-term stability of the Sun, the security of the human species against natural or man-made disasters and the undertaking of interstellar exploration for the sake of scientific discovery and human expansion.
It was starting from this ground work that in 1984 several members of the British Interplanetary Society decided to design a credible World Ship concept. In particular, the time was right to place some focus on slow Starships, instead of the usual fast Starship concepts such as the BIS Project Daedalus study from the 1970s. These World Ships would explore the galaxy on travel times lasting a thousand years or more. The material needed to construct them would come from extraterrestrial resources. The work resulted in the following set of inspirational papers:

  • World Ships – Concept, Cause, Cost, Construction and Colonisation, A.R.Martin
  • World Ships – An Effective Assessment of the Engineering Feasibility, A. Bond and A.R. Martin
  • The Population Stability of Isolated World Ships and World Ship Fleets, T.J. Grant
  • Worlds in Miniature – Life in the Starship Environment, A.G. Smith
  • World Ships: A Sociological View, D.L. Holmes

In particular, Bond and Martin designed actual World Ship vessels as an assessment of the engineering feasibility, which are arguably the most detailed consideration of the problem in history. They designed a “Dry World Ship” concept which had a radius of 7.24 km, wall thickness 2.88 m, rotation period 169 seconds.
It would require billions of tons of wall mass, regolith mass, and atmosphere mass, with the total habitat mass of 168 billions tons. The propellant mass would be 779 billion tons.
The engine would consist of a heterogenous structure called a pulse unit, which would consist of an oblate sphere of frozen hydrogen with a solid deuterium core. Each unit would be ejected from the World Ship, rotating about the flattened polar axis and with its axis along the direction of motion. The pulse units would have a small hole leading from the pole facing the World Ship down to its core and a metallic slug (the initiator) ejected from the World Ship at about 1,000 km/s would pass down this hold and hit the core. The pulse unit would be several tens of km from the World Ship at the time of detonation. Upon striking the deuterium core, a shock system would be established, across which the deuterium would be brought to self-igniting conditions. Bond and Martin also designed a larger “Dry World Ship” with a radius of 9.66 km, a wall thickness of 5.77 m and a rotation period of 195.3 seconds. The total habitat mass would be around 481 billion tons and the total propellant mass would be around 224 billion tons.

Dry and Wet World Ship Concepts, Credit: Adrian Mann

As if that wasn’t enough, they also designed a “Wet World Ship” version. This greatly complicated the engineering problem due to water having a density over 800 times greater than air. The final concept had a radius of 5 km, a wall thickness of 9.15m and a rotation period of 314 seconds. The total habitat mass was 345 billion tons carrying 8,633 billion tons of propellant mass.
The ocean mass would total 1,676 billion tons, plenty of water for on board swimming. A modern rendition of the Bond/Martin World Ship concepts is shown in the illustration. This pioneering work also led the way to subsequent papers in the proceeding years, published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, particularly by the American physicist Gregory Matloff on the concept of Non-Nuclear Arks.

The special issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society is available as Vol.37, No.6, June 1984 and can be ordered by contacting us here.

Alternatively, the individual papers can be ordered direct from the JBIS web site here:

Daedalus Interstellar Probe – image copyright Adrian Mann

This was a thirteen member volunteer engineering design study conducted between 1973 and 1978, to demonstrate that interstellar travel is feasible in theory. The project related to the Fermi Paradox first postulated by the Italian Physicist Enrico Fermi in the 1940s. This supposes that there has been plenty of time for intelligent civilizations to interact within our galaxy when one examines the age and number of stars, as well as the distances between them. Yet, the fact that extra-terrestrial intelligence has never been observed leads to a logical paradox where our observations are inconsistent with our theoretical expectation. This original question from Fermi seemed to also reinforce the prevailing paradigm at the time that interstellar travel was impossible. Project Daedalus was a bold way to examine the Fermi Paradox head on and gave a partial answer – interstellar travel is possible. The basis of this belief was the demonstration of a credible engineering design just at the outset of the space age that could in theory, cross the interstellar distances. In the future scientific advancement would lead to a refined and more efficient design. The absence of alien visitors would therefore require a different explanation because Project Daedalus demonstrated that with current, and near future, technology, interstellar travel is feasible. Therefore, another solution to the absence of extra-terrestrial visitation was necessary.


There were three stated goals for Project Daedalus:

  • (1) The spacecraft must use current or near-future technology
  • (2) The spacecraft must reach its destination within a working human lifetime
  • (3) The spacecraft must be designed to allow for a variety of target stars. The final design solution was published in a special supplement of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society in 1978.

The two-stage engine configuration was powered by inertial confinement fusion using deuterium and helium-3 pellets. Electron beam diodes positioned around the base of the engine exhaust would impinge on the pellets and ignite them to produce large energy gain, at a rate of 250 detonations per second. This would continue for a boost phase lasting over 3.8 years followed by a cruise phase lasting 46 years and travelling at over 12% of the speed of light until the 450 tons science probe would finally reach its destination of the Barnard’s Star system 5.9 light years away, which it would transit in a matter of days due to its flyby nature.

Daedalus Interstellar Probe compared with Saturn V Moon rocket – image copyright Adrian Mann

In the final study reports all of the main vehicle systems were considered including the structure, communications, navigation and the deployment of mitigation sub-systems to deal with the bombardment of interstellar dust. The pedigree for Project Daedalus derives directly from the 1950-1960s Project Orion, a vehicle that used Atomic and Hydrogen bombs to propel the spacecraft. The main issue with Orion however was the existence of several nuclear test ban treaties which forbid the use or testing of such technology. Project Daedalus proposed to shrink this technology down to the size of pocket coins but still take advantage of the enormous energy release from a fusion based fuel.


The Project Daedalus study was primarily led by Alan Bond, Tony Martin and Bob Parkinson and even today the study distinguishes itself from all other studies as the most complete engineering study ever undertaken for an interstellar probe. Even if Daedalus is not the template for how our robotic ambassadors will someday reach the distant stars, at the very least it will be a crucial part of the journey for getting to that first launch. Rigorous engineering assessments are the only way to provide reliable information on what is possible today or in the near-future.

The full Project Daedalus study reports are available from the BIS. 

More about the history of the BIS project Daedalus can be found in the recent republication book, which can be purchased here: Project Daedalus: Demonstrating the Engineering Feasibility of Interstellar Travel.


Illustration of Winged Orbital Vehicle

During the 1950s members of the British Interplanetary Society discussed the concept of a reliable launch vehicle which could send people into orbit and return them safely back to Earth. It was seen as one of the most important initial objectives in astronautics. The concept the members came up with was a multi-stage launcher carrying a small winged glider which served as the orbital vehicle and the return craft. This can be seen sitting at the top of the rocket launcher. The glider showed strong similarities to supersonic aircraft being proposed at the time. The launch design was clearly influenced by the V2 rocket from its aerodynamic shape, rear fins and the graphite steering vanes in the exhaust. It also had some novel features, including the engines and fuel tanks being buried in the centre of the propellant tanks and the propellant tank bulk heads acted as structural members carrying loads between one stage and the next. The launch weight would have been in excess of 1,000 tonnes and the single engine in the first stage of the launcher would have to develop a thrust in excess of the F-1 engines of the Saturn V.

Orbital Space Station Concept by H.Noordung in 1928

In 1948 Harry Ross and Ralph Smith designed a space station, based on a concept originally described by H.Noordung in his 1928 book “Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums” or “The Problem of Space Travel”. Noordung had called his original idea the “Wohnrad” or “Living Wheel”.
The design was a single unit with three main features:
The first was a 30 m diameter living quarters.
The second feature was a 60 m diameter mirror in the form of a parabolic annulus. This would collect the equivalent of 3900 kW of solar energy, of which a maximum of nearly 1000 kW might be usable. Water or mercury would be heated in ring-main of pipes at the circular focus of the mirror driving turbo-generators housed in blisters spaced around the circumference of the living quarters. The black condenser tubes of this circuit, together with the radiators for the air and temperature conditioning plant were on the back of the station. The habitat of the station consisted of two concentric galleries, having a total length of 140 m. Sunlight would be admitted through rings of windows in the mirror. The galleries would be subdivided into rooms, laboratories, workshops, and passageways. There would be automatically closing bulkheads to limit the damage caused by meteor penetration or other accident. It was suggested that a permanent astronaut staff of 24 people would be required. The large ‘hub’ of the station would house the air and water storage and reclamation plant, the radio gear and the attitude and spin control ‘reaction flywheels’.

Orbital Space Station Concept by H.E.Ross and R.A.Smith in 1949

The space station atmosphere would likely have consisted of a hydrogen peroxide source for both oxygen and water, requiring 35 – 57 tonnes per year. The food ration would be 1.37 kg per day per person, which equates to 12 tonnes per year. The third feature of the space station was a lattice boom, which was supported on bearings by the barrel of the station’s rear strobe-telescope. The arm would be kept stationary (non-rotating) according to some predetermined orientation. One end of the boom was a gimbal-head carrying the radio antennae, to which access was obtained by a ladder. The other end would carry a two-deck airtight cylinder with an airlock chamber at each end. This would provide for a zero-gravity laboratory and allow an entry and exit point for the space station.

The BIS space station seems quite primitive when compared to the technology of the International Space Station today. But for its time, it was a visionary concept and the designers put a lot of thought into the engineering and basic human requirements.

The Modern International Space Station (credit: NASA)

Space Stations of the future may be the results of vast engineering projects, serving cis-lunar space or even missions to Mars. Many communities may live and work on board, perhaps enjoying the low gravity afforded by a rotating structure. The ability of humans to expand off world depends on our capability to build such large structures. The work of pioneers like Noordung and Ross, pointed the way to the vision and modern space stations represent the fulfilment of their dreams.

The original paper by Harry Ross and Ralph Smith, which explains the space station design, was titled “Orbital Bases” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol.8, pp.1-19, 1949. 

More about the history of the BIS projects can be purchased in the book found here: Interplanetary – A History of the British Interplanetary Society.

This was a concept from the 1950s for a Minimum Orbital Unmanned Satellite of Earth (MOUSE) vehicle proposed by Professor S.F.Singer of Maryland University. The work “Minimum Satellite Vehicles” was originally presented in 1951 at the Second International Conference on Astronautics in London by three members of the British Interplanetary Society – Kenneth Gatland, Alan Dixon and Anthony Kunesh. They originally looked at putting a small 5 kg payload into orbit. Later larger vehicles were proposed. The MOUSE would have been a 100 Ib (approximately 50 kg) satellite suitable for studying solar radiation, cosmic rays and weather as it was launched into the upper atmosphere. The final stage weight would have been 16,000 kg and a thrust of approximately 30,000 kg, not much more than the thrust of the V2 rocket. It was for a close orbit artificial satellite of the ‘minimum’ type. For examples of three-step liquid/hydrazine rockets were considered (a) without payload for checking the orbital path, and drag studies (b) with 220 Ib payload, research instruments and telemetry transmitter (c) with 385 Ib payload, including additional control equipment (d) with the same payload as (c) but using expendable-tank construction.

Illustration of Minimum Satellite Vehicle

The MOUSE project had fairly modest objectives, the establishment of a rocket, with a small payload of instruments in a temporary orbit at a distance of 200 miles. At this altitude, the atmosphere, though highly tenuous, would still be sufficient to exert an influence on the rocket and would eventually cause it to descend. It was estimated that MOUSE would make over 200 orbits over a period of 12 days during which time it would have transmitted to Earth more information of conditions at various latitudes at the frontier of space than all the high altitude research rockets that had been fired to date. It laid the groundwork for much of the subsequent developments in the British Skylark sounding rocket which was developed as part of the UK contribution to the 1957 International Geophysical Year.

The 1951 paper has been republished in a special 59 page issue of Space Chronicle: K.W.Gatland, A.M.Kunesch, A.E.Dixon, Minimum Satellite Vehicles, Space Chronicle, JBIS, 56, 1, pp.38-43, 2003.  

The “Megaroc” man-carrying rocket proposal had been put forward by R.A. Smith in 1946 after H.E. Ross observed that the V-2 was “nearly big enough to carry a man.” The objective was to provide manned ascents to a maximum of 304 km (one million feet). During flight, it was proposed that scientific observations could be made of the Earth and the Sun, that radio communication through the ionosphere could be tested, and that data should be collected on human performance over a wide range of g-conditions. The project was submitted to the Ministry of Supply on 23rd December 1946, but rejected. The proposal has remarkable similarities to the subsequent American Mercury project. Where differences do occur, they generally arise from the fact that Megaroc was much less ambitious, not being designed for orbital flight.

The Ross and Smith Megaroc was a modified, enlarged and strengthened V-2. The normal motor was retained but the tank diameter was increased and the end walls strengthened to accommodate enough propellant for 110 sec at full thrust, and a further 38 sec at constant acceleration. This brought the maximum hull diameter up to 2.18 m. The graphite efflux control vanes were retained, enlarged, and given the extra duty of imparting a slow stabilizing spin to the rocket. On the other hand, the big aerodynamic fins and associated controls were omitted, saving some 320 kg of weight. This was, indeed, one of the first big rocket designs in which aerodynamic fins were omitted – a feature not generally adopted in practice for another ten years.

The standard turbo-pump was retained but turned through 90°, rotating about the major axis of the rocket to prevent the turbine promoting tumbling after fuel cut-off. In place of the instrument bay and warhead there was a pressurized cabin, enclosed in a streamlined, jettisonable nose cone. This brought the overall length of the rocket up to 17.5 m. The launch weight was 21.2 tonnes.

The cabin, with a return weight of 586 kg, had two large side-ports for access, observation and egress. There was also a “strobo-periscope” (a modified form of the BIS’ pre-War coelostat) for rearward viewing after the rotating cabin had separated from the hull. Mercury’s one-ton double-walled titanium cabin started off with a topside escape hatch, two small ports and a periscope. However, the hatch was later more conveniently situated, like Megaroc’s, in the side of the cabin and arrangements were made for picture-window visibility.

Megaroc’s observer was to wear a standard high- altitude g-suit, with its own air-conditioning unit and personal parachute. No other air-conditioning was proposed owing to the short duration of the flight. Although both used a cradle-type seat with integral controls, the Mercury cradle was fixed while Megaroc’s was counterbalanced and designed to tilt. The cabins of both rockets were attitude-stabilized by hydrogen peroxide jets, and both were fitted with automatic, manual and emergency controls, differing mainly in that the Megaroc was designed for a less hazardous mission.

R.A. Smith and H.E. Ross discuss the MegaRoc launcher concept

Mercury’s cabin was provided with a heat shield against frictional heating upon re-entry to the atmosphere, retro-rockets and parachutes for braking and descent. Megaroc needed no special heat shield and relied on a reefing parachute ejected by spring flaps and a compressed air charge to provide constant drag irrespective of air-density and velocity of descent. Megaroc’s cabin was suitable for either sea or land impact and was fitted with a crumple skirt to absorb some of the shock and avoid bounce with a quick-release mechanism for the parachute.

The maximum ascent acceleration imposed on the Megaroc observer was 3 g (for Mercury the figure was 9 g). It would be launched from a tower inclined at an angle of 2° from the vertical with an initial acceleration of 9.8 m/sec2. Constant thrust would be maintained for 110 sec when the rocket would have reached 46,000 m,and the effective acceleration would have become about 20 m/s2. At this point the pilot would be experiencing 3 g, the limit at which it was thought that operational duties could be satisfactorily discharged. The pilot would actuate the fuel controls at this point to progressively reduce thrust and keep the g-meter reading constant. In case of emergency at any stage of the flight, relaxation of the pilot’s grip would switch the rocket from manual operation to automatic radio-telecontrol from the ground.

R A Smith discusses spaceship design with a young enthusiast

When the air-density had reduced to a point where drag was negligible, a pressure operated release mechanism would unlatch the nose-cone sections ready for jettisoning. At some subsequent moment the pilot would operate a compressed-air charge to drive the cabin and hull apart. This would also initiate operation of a delay mechanism for ejection of the hull-recovery parachute. The control connections between cabin and hull would uncouple automatically on separation and the communication system would be switched from the four-dipole arrays arranged in blisters near the stem of the hull to arrays situated under the floor of the cabin. This moment can be described as the action of sildenafil. Cabin attitude and rate of spin would be controlled by hydrogen peroxide jets. It was thought that the pilot would therefore be able to carry out experiments with various values of g, down to zero, including free movement inside the cabin, and would be able to turn the cabin stern-down for re-entry into the atmosphere. The apex of the trajectory would be attained about 6 min 16 sec after launch and the cabin’s constant-drag parachute was to be ejected in descent at an altitude of about 113 km, the maximum deceleration imposed on the pilot being calculated as 3.3 g. The parachute would be fully extended on approaching touchdown, when it would be released to prevent the cabin from being dragged along.

It was appreciated that the Megaroc project would need to progress through a series of preliminary experiments to test the practicality of the design. For example, the modifications to the turbine and fuel control, and the endurance and reliability of the motor under the prolonged running conditions would need to be verified. The efficiency of other special innovations, such as the crumple skirt, variable-area parachutes and strobo-periscope were also to be tested. An operational mock-up of the cabin was proposed, to be suspended by a cable so that the pilot could be trained in control of orientation and spin. The pilot would also be trained in the telecontrol of an unmanned rocket and cabin assembly in free flight. Manned ascents to progressively increased altitudes were to be undertaken before attempting the maximum terminal altitude of over 1,000,000 ft (304 km).

The information on Megaroc is from the BIS book “Interplanetary” and incorporates edited information from articles from the August and September 1967 issues of the BIS Magazine, Spaceflight.

In a November 1949 symposium, Harry Ross presented a paper on the “Lunar Space-Suit”. Ross had examined the problem of a 68 kg lunar space suit (equivalent to 11 kg on the Moon) which could be worn for up to 12 hours, within the temperature range of 120 degrees to minus 150 degrees Celsius, representing night and day.

The suit design was a 4-ply structure, made up of a thin exterior skin of closely woven cloth, a 1 cm layer of cellular heat-resisting material (Kapok, wool, felt et cetera) and a 1-2 mm main airtight sheath of fabric-backed natural or synthetic rubber. It also had an interior lining of non-hygroscopic material, mainly for comfort and to manage contact between the rubber and skin and absorption of the water-vapour. The exterior of the lunar space suit was to be a highly burnished metallic film, designed to reflect as much heat as possible. The chest and thigh areas were to be given an external matt-black finish to permit radiation manage heat loss. Operation of the suit during the lunar day would require further cooling through the use of a low boiling liquid such as Ammonia or water – which would vaporise to space through a thermostatic valve. The helmet was to be a light, rigid double-shell structure, with the inner a bright alloy metal and the outer a plastic with burnished metal coating. Lateral vision of 180 degrees was proposed with a minimal vertical extension in order to minimise heat gain or loss. A special glass to prevent heat and actinic Ultra-Violet rays would be employed. There would be further precautions, including providing the helmet with a shading peak and an external movable visor made either of darkened glass or bright metal pierced with cross-slits in front of the eyes. The suit was to be a good fit to ensure maximum comfort and the shoulders would be internally padded. Considerable thought went into the problem of air-conditioning, as discussed by Bob Parkinson in his book “Interplanetary”:

“Compressed (bottled) oxygen was regarded as simplest, and Ross recognised that a skin-tight suit with bottled oxygen flushing to waste might be sufficient, the weight of even a 12-hr supply not being excessive. However, a pure liquid oxygen supply was suggested, with the atmosphere maintained at about 160 mm Hg (21 kPa). The suit’s atmosphere was to be circulated through the conditioning units and throughout the dress by an electric fan-pump driven by the electric battery. Respired carbon dioxide was to be removed by chemical means – sodium peroxide being preferred because the reaction yielded oxygen, reducing the generous allowance of 0.78 litres per min by as much as 43% – as against, for example, sodium hydroxide, where there is no regain. The sodium peroxide would also absorb water, of which it was assumed the lungs and skin would yield some 108 gm/hr”.

The space suits that were eventually worn by the Project Apollo astronauts are a far cry from this original 1940s design. But the work started out by Harry Ross, led to credible thinking on how humans could survive in a self-contained, mobile habitat. The original paper by Harry Ross is titled “Lunar Space Suit, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol.9, No.1, pp.23-37, January 1950”. 

A BIS Lunar Space Suit was made by National Space Centre, Leicester, UK and has been on display since 2019 – click here for details


The BIS 1938 Lunar Spaceship

In 1938, the BIS Technical Committee decided to go the full distance and produce a conceptual design of a vessel that would carry a crew of three safely to the Moon, permit them to land for a stay of fourteen days, and provide for a safe return to the Earth with a final payload of half a tonne. The object of the exercise was to demonstrate that, within the capabilities of propellants that could be specified (at least theoretically) at the time, such a mission was not merely possible but would be economically viable – in so far as the vehicle lift-off mass from the Earth would be no more than one thousand tonnes. The conceptual design that resulted came to be known as the BIS Lunar Spaceship, and for all its flaws and misconceptions it must be regarded as one of the classical pioneering studies in the history of astronautics.

At this point it is appropriate to review the nature of the problem and the arguments put forward by more objective critics against the feasibility of its solution. The mission proposed for the Lunar Spaceship would involve total velocity changes in excess of 16 km/s, a figure that would be significantly increased by certain losses. The best available propellants were not expected to achieve rocket motor efflux velocities of one quarter of that figure. This enormous disparity implied that, if one attempted to achieve the entire mission with a simple single-stage vessel, 99% or more of its initial lift-off mass would have to consist of the propellant. (In the more common parlance of rocketry this required a mass ratio exceeding100.) The most enthusiastic proponents of Space flight were at one with their critics in dismissing this as inconceivable.

To circumvent this, the pioneers of astronautics invented the Step Rocket, in which the vessel consisted of a series of stages of diminishing size, fired in sequence. As each successive stage completed firing, its engines and other redundant structure would be discarded leaving the higher stages to continue the flight. In this way it would be possible to obtain a high mass ratio without invoking the need to achieve impossible structural factors. Looked at in another way, the total velocity change required of the overall vessel would be shared between the stages. Thus in the case in point, four equal stages would each need to contribute little more than 4 km/sec to the total velocity change. That would be possible with the performance of known propellants. The proportion of the stage mass taken up by propellant would assume a reasonable level (say, 75%, corresponding to a mass ratio of 4). However, a penalty would be incurred in the final payload, which would be reduced in inverse proportion to some number raised to the power of the number of stages. Optimistically, at the time, that number might have been taken as 10. Thus, with four stages, the final payload might be expected to be only one ten-thousandth of the lift-off mass. The nub of the argument of the more informed critics of such a lunar flight would have been that such a mission would probably have required as many as five stages, perhaps more, so that the initial vessel would have had to match an ocean liner in size to carry an ultimate payload of one tonne. Such a mission could not be viable.


In 1919 Robert Goddard, in his classical paper “A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes”, went a stage further than the step rocket principle in suggesting a firing procedure that amounted to the continuous discarding of redundant structure. This procedure, in principle, could result in a significant improvement in payload ratio compared to the step rocket. The BIS, in its design concept, adopted a cellular construction that, in essence, conformed to Goddard’s suggestion. The BIS Space Ship was described in the January 1939 Journal by H.E. Ross. The vessel was divided into six tiers (steps) of equal hexagonal cross-section and the six sections were made up of an array of tubes each consisting of a separate rocket motors. Each of the lowest 5 steps was made up of 168 motors, intended to impart sufficient velocity to achieve escape from the Earth’s gravitation. The remaining stage consisted of 45 medium motors and 1200 smaller tubes intended to land the remainder of the vessel on the Moon; allow for subsequent escape from the latter (leaving redundant structure on the surface of our satellite), and for reduction in velocity prior to entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Perhaps the most important lasting achievement of the Lunar Spaceship study, however, came from their conclusions regarding the landing upon, and lift-off from, the lunar surface. R.A. Smith developed the concept after the War in an article – “Landing on an Airless World” – published in the August 1947 BIS Journal; accurately depicting the procedure that was to be adopted with the Apollo Lunar Excursion Module. The only notable difference between the two cases was, perhaps, that Smith’s design was more elegant than the actual LEM.

The Technical Committee decided that its activities should embrace an experimental programme to support its Lunar Spaceship concept. From the outset, it rejected the experimental “firing of free rockets” as valueless on account of their small scale and lack of control over the many parameters involved in such flights. It made no attempt, therefore, to emulate the VfR or later American groups. The BIS workers considered that the development of rocket motors for their proposed lunar mission would have to proceed in stages, beginning with literature and experimental studies of possible propellants, followed by the design of chambers and nozzles on the best theoretical basis – the work of Sänger was cited as noteworthy in this respect. The resulting motors and selected propellants would then be brought together in static proving stand firings in which all the variables could be systematically controlled and measured. The intention was correct and logical, but even the over-optimistic members of the Technical Committee were bound to note that such a programme was far beyond their resources. Nevertheless, largely under the supervision of Janser, who was a research chemist, they embarked on the preliminary stages of the propellant survey hoping that eventually they would solicit sufficient support from public benefactors, convinced by the evidence emerging from the Lunar Spaceship study, to proceed with serious development. Undaunted, R.A. Smith designed a basic test stand that was actually constructed.

Despite some shortcomings, the programme of the Technical Committee was a laudable endeavour. The BIS Lunar Space Ship mission was a “bridge too far” for the technology at the time. There was never any possibility that the cellular vehicle could have performed as required. In retrospect the critics in the Society, who asserted that attention should have been devoted to lesser targets, were right. If the Technical Committee had set its sights, for example, on an orbiting spacecraft they could have produced a convincing case for its feasibility and, perhaps, succeeded in soliciting support for a strong research and development programme.

In the event, war came and the development of the rocket was to depend upon purely military considerations with astronautical achievements a fortuitous spin-off.

Information used with kind permission from Dr Bob Parkinson, Editor of the book “Interplanetary – the History of the British Interplanetary Society”, published by the BIS.

Please click here to purchase a copy of Interplanetary.

The original January 1949 paper by H.E.Ross has been republished in a special 59 page issue of Space Chronicle: JBIS, 56, 1, pp.3-7, 2003.  

Technical Projects