Space Horizons is an annual, one-day workshop at Brown University School of Engineering where professionals assemble to investigate cutting-edge prospects in space. The focus of each workshop is to dissect why promising ideas and innovations are not pursued and what barriers (political, technical, architectural) must be overcome. The workshop expands on the potential of space capabilities that are not yet realized. Past topics have included microrovers, satellites built on a single integrated circuit chip and vehicles for launching 100 gram to 10 kg payloads into LEO, missions composed of hybrid architectures of macro and micro spacecraft.
Alpha Centauri, only 4.37 light years away from our sun, is the closest star system to our own solar system. Despite its relatively short distance it would take a conventional vehicle, like the Space Shuttle, over 165,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri. This method of transportation proves to be very inefficient when exploring beyond our solar system. The Breakthrough Starshot Mission aims to develop a fleet of very small “light sail” interstellar spacecraft named Starchip. These ships will be propelled by an array of ground based lasers allowing them to reach speeds upwards to 20% and 30% the speed of light. This means it will only take roughly 20 to 30 years to traverse the 41 trillion miles to Alpha Centauri. Allowing researchers for the first time the ability to study the properties of another star system up close!
Through the aggregation of experts working in the field, representatives from potential user, research and funding agencies in government, commercial and academic sectors and students, the Space Horizons Workshop defines and eventually realizes an emerging space capability. In one fast paced day of interactive comprehensive session presentations, panels and a lunch combined with poster session the workshop delves into the exciting prospects of a newfound faculty in space. The conference opens with a “meet and greet” welcome reception the evening before the event (February 15th) and includes breaks during the day (February 16th) to engender informal interactions.