NASA has revealed the design of a spacecraft, powered by a “warp drive,” a propulsion technology that would enable faster-than-light travel. The project, a collaboration between starship designer Mark Rademaker and NASA aerospace engineer Harold White, has yielded the I.X.S. Enterprise.
Though not quite as streamlined as its science-fictional namesake, the U.S.S. Enterprise, its Frisbee-shaped flight deck conjures the bridge from where Captain James. T. Kirk’s commanded it. Its modular body is more a nod to NASA’s Space Shuttle.
Its stars (pun, please) are the two broad rings that enwrap the entire ship. They’re the nacelles—engines that’d enable it to move at superluminal speeds, by twisting and bending the space-time around it, while keeping the spacecraft itself, cocooned in a “bubble” of normal space-time.
They’d be powered by a reactor, which would require, for fuel, “exotic matter”—particles that are known to exhibit bizarre unmatter-like traits, such as a mass of minus two pounds—but exist only in the form of equations. Procuring it therefore, is “probably the biggest hurdle in this concept,” Rademaker told me in an e-mail interview.
Mounted at the rear, is another engine—a conventional one—which will provide the thrust to propel the vessel forward, both in normal and warped space.
Attached to its fuselage are four pods that hold the living quarters, cargo, and laboratories. An antenna, peeking out from beneath the ship’s Frisbee-like nose, will serve to provide low-bandwidth communication in the event that other, swifter modes of communication fail, or for beaming S.O.S. messages. On its flanks, are a set of solar panels, intended as tertiary power source, to keep critical systems running.
As promising as the I.X.S. Enterprise is, so far, it exists only on the drawing board. When it’ll lift off into reality is anyone’s guess.