NASA and a group of researchers including Stephen Hawking have teamed up to develop a nano-starship made from a single silicon chip. This starship known as ‘StarShip’ can travel at one-fifth the speed of light.
Theoretically this craft could arrive at our nearest star system (Alpha Centauri) in just 20 years. A conventional spacecraft is roughly 100 times slower than this, and the same journey would take 2000 years.
The announcement was made by Hawking back in April, and further developments in lasers that propel nano-spacecraft will help to improve it’s potential speed. The craft is just the size of a postage stamp, its name is ‘StarChip’.
Current obstacles for the craft include radiation, which could cause a series of defects in the chips outside layers“where they degrade device performance”, says the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Long term exposure to radiation of this type could cause leaks in the craft’s transistor, and the team is currently exploring options to minimize this problem. Adding any shielding would add weight to the craft and slow its journey through space – leaving it as is could cause the craft to fail in deep space, so this is a problem that needs to be solved.