The Power of Synergy Symposium Executive Summary
Promoting a Grand Transformation for Rapid Space Progress
The Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop (TVIW) is a tax-exempt educational corporation created in 2014 by highly motivated people in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama who are inspired by the goal of developing meaningful steps toward a space-faring interstellar civilization. TVIW hosted its 2018 symposium, The Power of Synergy, in Oak Ridge on October 23-25 at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Y-12 National Security Complex’s New Hope Center. The meeting was proposed and managed by astrophysicist Dr. John D.G. Rather, President of RCIG, Inc., who served as General Chair. Dr. Dean S. Hartley III, noted expert in operations research, served as Co-Chair. Speakers and participants included leaders from government agencies, national laboratories, academia, and private space industries, as well as notable visionaries including science fiction authors and prominent media enthusiasts involved in transforming the future.
Establishing concepts for accelerated feasibility of large-scale human development and economic use of outer space before 2030 was the primary objective of the meeting. The results summarized in this report are intended to inspire thoughtful reconsideration of present space development activities, making the case for greatly expanding human progress in the coming decade without vast new fiscal commitments beyond existing plans. The resulting new infrastructure industries will promote major economic growth, ensuring that the United States expands its traditional roles of creating great and affordable innovative futures for the world.
The symposium emphasized that inspired multi-agency government collaboration with private industries can greatly accelerate progress. In the 1960s, the newly formed NASA unified the best elements of existing government and business functions; and it still enjoys the greatest popularity of any government agency. In March 2018, NASA announced a relatively small new cooperative technology development effort with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Quickly expanding upon this new beginning is fundamentally important to enable major breakthrough strategies for accelerating human space development and industrialization. An essential requirement is for clearly defined large-scale programs uniting NASA and the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) to implement fully operational high-energy Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP), Solar Powered Industrial Processes, and other game-changing technologies and capabilities made feasible by DOE National Laboratories working jointly with NASA and private industries.
The eponymous “Power of Synergy” describes the vital catalytic element that must be applied. Hugely important concepts and technologies already exist that can be combined in new ways, where the sum becomes much more than the parts. Diverse not-yet-exploited technologies can be marshaled together serendipitously – enabling greatly enhanced capabilities for national security, fiscal growth, infrastructure improvement, and human engagement, both in space and on Earth. Thus, the TVIW October 2018 symposium framed a roadmap for synergy and technology superiority that will sustain U.S. space development as the hallmark of inspired innovation leadership on Earth and beyond.
Major collaboration of government agencies with emerging private space industries is the vital fructifying principle, but this cannot succeed without clearly established specific goals. Defining highly innovative but logical and affordable candidate goals is thus fundamental to the success of the symposium. Three key Recommendations for Action frame the resulting proposed roadmap to achieve transformative human progress in space before 2030:
Recommendation 1: A Focused Program. An integrated decade-long systems-level innovative program should be undertaken, focused on the goals of space industrial development, and human settlement. Detailed identification and definition of novel synergistic concepts and supporting technology R&D must include plans for reprogramming resources necessary to rapidly bridge the gap from research to applications. This must not be random piece-work. The objectives must be concisely defined with performance requirements matched to explicit transformative US mission goals and accomplishments before 2030.
Recommendation 2: Transformative Technology Decision Process.Abundant, affordable high-energy systems for propulsion, electric power, and industrial processing are essential to the large-scale exploration, development and settlement of space. High-payoff synergistic R&D investments should address the topic areas identified below to accomplish the needed objectives in 5 to 7 years maximum. Major transformations can be accomplished with reasonable funding provided these decisions are specifically governed to fit the overall systems plan and concise mission objectives. Example goals include (1) Capturing small Near Earth Asteroids and demonstrating use of their materials to enable safe human habitats and space industries. (2) Establishing a permanent US base at the Moon’s south pole specifically to develop fully autonomous long-term life support from in-situ resources. (3) Making human round trips to Mars’s two moons to evaluate their suitability as forward bases for missions to the planet’s surface.
Recommendation 3: Cooperation & Coordination.Accomplishing essential technology developments and demonstrations to realize space industrialization and settlement will require a variety of novel organizational arrangements, including cooperation and coordination among government agencies together with partnerships among government and private sector missions and programs. Ample support should also be given to “garage style” highly innovative startup companies inspired by the challenges. A key element for success is for the government’s National Laboratories to transform their policies to bridge the current “valley of death” that is killing a large percentage of creative work proposed by academics, small business founders, and even employees of the National Labs who are highly competent in science and engineering but not experienced in raising several million dollars to bridge to actual game-changing applications. The success of Silicon Valley innovations must guide our strategies to industrialize space and make it profitable before 2030.
- Transformative Technologies
Crucial synergistic technologies and concepts evaluated at the symposium are described below. Most have high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), not requiring decades to implement. Mobilizing development of key materials, components, and applications (e.g., involving nuclear fuels, reactor design, and propulsion systems) must necessarily engage rapid coordinated development in existing advanced R&D facilities of DOE, NASA, and private industries.
Energy Systems for Power, Propulsion, and Space Industrialization
- High Impulse Nuclear Propulsion & Power – A huge step forward in compact nuclear reactor design was proved by DARPA in the $430 Million Timberwind Particle Bed Reactor Program from 1988 to 1993. It remains the most advanced candidate technology for space propulsion. The reactors can also operate bi-modally to provide both propulsion and large amounts of electric power. Upper stage nuclear rockets (i.e. used only in space) can enable human trips to Mars in thirty to sixty days rather than multiple years. Nuclear propulsion is also vital for capture and engineering of small (10-meter diameter) near earth asteroids (NEA) that can facilitate construction in space of habitats safe from solar and cosmic radiation. Space solar power and other major industries will be rapidly enabled by the availability of ample nuclear energy.
- High Efficiency Wireless Power Transmission – Efficient and affordable wireless microwave or laser power transmission is broadly applicable for space exploration and development. Already proven by DARPA for near-term applications, high-efficiency fiber-optic high-energy lasers (HEL) are now very mature technology that can enable megawatt-class power beaming capabilities for space power and propulsion. Laser light sails are a crucial application extending to interplanetary and interstellar propulsion for continuous, ultimately very low-cost logistics.
- High Temperature Superconductor (HTSC) Applications – This technology will radically transform all types of electrical applications when fully exploited. It has been developed for thirty years and is ready for many implementations, both on Earth and in space. A unique game-changing space application is Magnetically Inflated Cable (MIC) technology that can deploy from compact payloads to form very large but low-weight rigid space structures such as solar concentrators 100 meters in diameter.Megawatts of 3000° C solar energy at the focus of such solar concentrators can implement near-term capture of 10-meter diameter near-earth asteroids to lunar orbits, where they can provide millions of kilograms of useful materials. Robotic mass-production of low-cost products then becomes feasible to provide completely safe radiation shielding and centrifugal artificial gravity solutions for human habitats and long-duration travel. – The new technologies can be quickly developed for “Maglev” applications as diverse as 90% efficiency surface transportation and surface-to-space electromagnetic launch from the Earth, Moon, or Mars.
- Solar Power Satellites (SPS) – Formerly regarded as “pie in the sky,” high-energy space solar power with microwave or laser power beaming to the Earth, our Moon, or to near-earth asteroids is now a real transformative possibility. Persuasive concepts already exist for in-space production and deployment of all of the SPS components. Combining the notions of small asteroid capture for raw materials with robotic machines for ever-expanding production capabilities, near-term concepts are viable for beaming efficient, totally pollution-free solar energy to Earth, to space industries, and to the Moon & Mars.
Enabling & Enabled Systems for Manufacturing & Resources
- Large Scale 3-D Printing for Additive Manufacturing – Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and its innovative manufacturing spin-offs are world leaders in this vital new technology. There are direct links to in-space manufacturing possibilities using readily available regolith materials from asteroids and on the moon.
- Space Resources Utilization– The extraction, processing and utilization of space resources is both enabled-by, and enabling-for ambitious large-scale but affordable space energy systems. The resources of near-earth objects (NEOs), the Moon (particularly the detected deposits of volatiles within the permanently shadowed cold-traps at the poles) and beyond (e.g., Mars and its moons) can be utilized only with the availability of large-scale, affordable energy. And, those resources – particularly in the form of chemical feedstocks (e.g., propellants) and manufactured systems (e.g. see also item 3 above) – can be readily and economically employed for advanced energy systems, such as refueling reusable transportation systems, fabricating components of Space Power Satellites, and many other vital applications including food production and waste reprocessing.
- Lightweight Large Aperture Optics – Various paths lead directly to the possibility of building enormous optical telescopes in space at vastly lower cost than present ground-based technology. For example, MIC (e.g. see item 3 above) enables kilometer diameter telescopes deployed in coherent interferometer arrays that will enable imaging and diagnostics of earth-like planets around nearby stars. Evaluation of possible life on exo-planets and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) would be greatly augmented. Importantly, the science of cosmology will be massively advanced toward ultimate understanding of the origin and destiny of our universe. The same technology will enable efficient laser propulsion and power beaming throughout our solar system.
- Regenerative / Self-Sufficient Habitation Systems – Affordable and abundant energy, the transformation and utilization of space resources, 3D printing of systems, etc., are essential to enable the permanent expansion of humanity beyond Earth. Today’s space systems are energy-starved and as a result depend on continuous supply from Earth of consumables such as air, water and food, as well as regular waste removal. All of the systems currently in use must be radically improved to enable humanity to move permanently beyond low Earth orbit. Megawatts of low cost energy provide the key to success.
Executive Summary General Observations
There was widespread agreement among speakers and participants at the symposium that the world has reached a transformative moment having profound implications for the near future. Governments and private enterprises in several of the world’s largest economies have realized that potentials for dominance in both defense and space commercialization are now within reach. Visionary leadership and aggressive technology push can establish permanent advantages for the countries that seize the opportunities. Traditional leadership roles of the United States are clearly in jeopardy.
Realization of even a fraction of the technologies and concepts considered at the meeting will open limitless horizons for breakthrough human accomplishments in space by 2030. This promising outcome depends upon rapid exploitation of transformative technologies focused on specific goals for human development of outer-space resources, leading directly to near-term propitious worldwide consequences. Historically, the percentage of the US population that left the comforts of the East Coast was very small; but the effects of having an open frontier were practically, psychologically and culturally very significant: The open frontier provided vast new resources and opportunities. Historians cite the open frontier as a major factor in US fiscal and cultural development as an adventurous, individualistic, creative society. Opening space for full-scale development will provide the same advantages for our future.
High Energy synergistic technologies are at the heart of everything we might accomplish. New initiatives to combine the resources of DOE, DOD, NASA, and Private Industries are fundamental requirements for the US to lead the world in space development. Other countries will dominate if near term synergistic capabilities are not vigorously pursued.
Further details will be maintained on the TVIW website under the heading The Power of Synergy 2018 Symposium. Considerable detailed information is available concerning all of the technologies and concepts summarized above. The four principal Themes of the meeting build the synergistic case for rapid space development in the decade before 2030. YouTube links to all talks provide detailed information, together with accompanying bios of all of the plenary speakers and profiles of their work. Interesting contributions contained in Theme 4 provide an important legacy for the future: Notable science fiction authors and technical futurists discuss the long-range payoffs that will accrue from the ultimate expansion of our human species into space on a wholesale basis.
Profiles of Symposium Creators:
John D.G. Rather, Ph.D.
Dr. John D.G. Rather, General Chair of the Power of Synergy Symposium, is known internationally as a scientific innovator and creator of major technology programs. He obtained his BS in Physics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his MS and PhD in Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. His experience in business and government spans defense, space, medical, and industrial communities. Dr. Rather worked in physics and space research at Oak Ridge National Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory before moving into private business and US government senior appointments. As VP of Kaman Aerospace Corporation, he created StarLab, which with co-contractors became the largest R&D program of the Strategic Defense Initiative with total funding of $630 Million. In 1990, Dr. Rather was recruited to NASA HQ to accelerate space systems development. In 1992, he served as Chairman of the NASA/DOE study of asteroid impact prevention mandated by the U.S. House of Representatives. Asteroid 7290 is named “Johnrather” in his honor. For more than twenty years he was also a contributor at the D.I.A. and the C.I.A. Dr. Rather moved back to Oak Ridge, Tennessee in 2006 and founded RCIG Inc. and Sisyphus Energy Inc. to create and develop focused revolutionary technology breakthroughs. The Power of Synergy Symposium is the latest example. His websites are www.RCIGinc.com and www.sisyphusenergy.com . E-mail jrather@RCIGinc.com.
Dean S. Hartley III, Ph.D.
Dr. Dean Hartley, Co-Chair of The Power of Synergy Symposium, is known internationally as a problem solver and expert in operations research (OR). He has been solving problems for customers for almost fifty years: two years while obtaining his PhD in Mathematics, four years while on active duty in the Army, nine years in private industry, fifteen years at the Oak Ridge Federal Facilities, and seventeen years as Principal of Hartley Consulting. Hartley is a Director of the Military Operations Research Society (MORS), a past Vice President of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS), and past President of the Military Applications Society (MAS). Hartley has published An Ontology for Unconventional Conflict, Unconventional Conflict: A Modeling Perspective, Predicting Combat Effects, co-authored two other books, contributed numerous chapters to other books, and written more than 150 articles and technical documents. In 1994 he was awarded the Koopman Prize for best publication in military operations research and in 2013 he was awarded the Steinhardt Prize for lifetime achievement in operations research. The Hartley Consulting website is http://drdeanhartley.com/HartleyConsulting/index.htm