Humanity's First Starship and its Technology to be Previewed at World Space Congress

Press Release From: Team Encounter
Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2002

WHO: Team Encounter, the world leader in public participation space missions.

WHAT: Exhibition of solar sail technology in advance of our upcoming historic Earthview spaceflight. Spacecraft development team members' contributions (MicroSat Systems, L'Garde, Inc., and Ecliptic Enterprises) will also be on display. Information available about accommodations for secondary payloads on our spacecraft, scheduled for launch in 2004, will also be available.

WHERE: Booth #733 at the World Space Congress, Houston, Texas

WHEN: October 14th-19th

Team Encounter, (Houston, Texas), announces the historic development of humanity's first interstellar spacecraft, Humanity's First Starship.

Team Encounter consists of two historic missions:

Mission One "EARTHVIEW"- Designed for launch on an European Space Agency Ariane-5 rocket, the Team Encounter Earthview Flight spacecraft, will demonstrate solar sail technology in geosynchronous transfer orbit. Scheduled for launch in the 4th quarter of 2004, the spacecraft will remain in GTO for up to 90 days executing secondary mission objectives. At the end of that time, the primary mission, a 20m X 20m solar sail, will be deployed.

Team Encounter's primary mission objective for the Earthview Flight is to verify the design, deployment scheme, and controllability of a 20m X 20m solar sail in GTO. Knowledge gained from this flight will be applied to the larger (70m X 70m) solar sail known as "Humanity's First Starship" solar system escape mission in 2005. That flight will carry a 3kg payload of messages and DNA samples for Team Encounter's public participation customers. Both sails and the events surrounding their missions are available for corporate sponsorship.

Team Encounter has assembled a strong team for design, manufacture, test, and launch of the Earthview Flight solar sail mission. The team includes Microsat Systems, Inc. of Littleton, CO; L'Garde, Inc. of Tustin, CA; and Ecliptic Enterprises of Pasadena, CA. MSI is responsible for the spacecraft bus, L'Garde for the solar sail components, and Ecliptic for the high resolution video capture system for monitoring the solar sail deployment. Arianespace will provide launch services via an Ariane-5 launch vehicle. Team Encounter intends to announce the final team member for a small free-flyer spacecraft, to monitor the solar sail deployment from afar, in the near future.

Team Encounter's Earthview Flight spacecraft can also accommodate secondary payloads of opportunity for government or commercial customers at a much reduced cost (via commercial leveraging) than could be obtained through conventional means. Up to 20 kg of payload mass can be integrated and provided with power, data storage, and downlink capabilities. External fields-of-view are available. Interested parties should contact the undersigned ASAP for details. Payload data will be gathered prior to solar sail deployment for downlink to the ground. Extended mission options may also be considered following deployment activities.

Team Encounter has funded enabling gossamer structure technology developments at L'Garde. As a result, inflatable, rigidizing booms and state-of-the-art fabrication and packaging methods are now available for implementation on our two missions. Ground test results have been contracted for by NOAA. Future NOAA solar reconnaissance missions may require renewable propulsion options such as solar sails to position their spacecraft closer to the sun to provide earlier solar storm warning times for the earth. Team Encounter technology may now make those missions possible. In addition, another new perspective comes from solar sail satellites having the ability to orbit around the sun riding high or below the Earth, constantly looking down on polar regions. The potential uses of such "pole sitters" could relay lower orbiting satellites data in real time, and inexpensively. The constant view of the polar regions rotating beneath could be a major advancement in the field of meteorology and climate studies.

MicroSat Systems (MSI), from Littleton, CO, provides an affordable micro-satellite that meets the requirements of the Team Encounter Earthview Flight objectives. The spacecraft design is based in the TechSat 21 spacecraft design. MSI is building up to three TechSat 21 busses for the Air Force Research Lab to demonstrate enabling technologies for spacecraft for the twenty-first century. Many of the component and subsystem designs developed for TechSat 21 will be used with no or minimal modifications to meet the Earthview Flight requirements. Key features of the design include its low mass (71.2kg), high available power (152W), downlink capability (84 kbps), and on-board data storage (128 MB). The bus and all components fit within the Ariane-5 ASAP micro auxiliary payload stored volume envelope. With the L'Garde, Inc. sailcraft attached to the carrier, the entire spacecraft fits within a 593mm X 593 mm X 565mm box.

L'Garde, Inc. of Tustin, CA, is designing and building the inflatable boom structure and deployable solar sail for the Team Encounter Earthview Flight. L'Garde has been in the gossamer structures business since 1971 and is experienced in developing materials, analytical methods and codes, packaging and deployment methods, process initiation, release and inflation mechanisms and methods, interfaces to mechanical rigid structures, and instrumentation for inflatable space structures. Over 150 inflatable objects manufactured by L'Garde have flown in space successfully to date.

High Definition video imagery of the solar sail deployment and fly away will be provided by cameras mounted onboard the carrier. Ecliptic Enterprises (Pasadena, CA) RocketCamT technology will be employed to capture the view of the Earthview Flight solar sail as it begins its demonstration of a new breed of renewable propulsion that will make Humanity's First Starship possible.

Mission Two - Humanity's First Starship. Team Encounter is now designing a state-of-the-art solar sail to power the Team Encounter spacecraft on a journey beyond the solar system. When fully deployed (at almost 1.2 acres), the Team Encounter solar sail will be the largest single structure ever deployed in space. This solar sail will propel the Team Encounter spacecraft into deep space at approximately 67,000 miles per hour (approximately four times the speed of the Space Shuttle).

Team Encounter and its subcontractor, L'Garde, Inc. recently performed a two-part deployment test of a 7.6m inflatable/rigidizable boom in Santa Ana, CA. In the test, the boom material was initially packaged into a unit about one-third of a meter long. The flexible boom was then inflated with nitrogen gas, pushing small diameter sections out from inside the larger diameter base section until fully inflated. Done in a water trough to alleviate the effects of gravity on the boom, the inflation proceeded as expected making possible the second part of the test.

Following inflation the boom was placed inside a 10m long Styrofoam "ice chest" and chilled by liquid nitrogen. Simulating the coldness of space, the nitrogen rigidized a resin material incorporated in the boom structure providing load carrying capability along its length for the future Team Encounter Solar Sail. At L'Garde, for the purposes of this test, the boom was suspended at an angle in the test fixture and an incremental load was affixed to a cup hanging from the boom tip to simulate the load of the solar sail on the now rigid structure. This test was a remarkable success, as the boom demonstrated a 5 X load carrying capability over what will be required in flight.

More tests will be carried out over the coming months to replicate this result and further demonstrate the viability of gossamer structures for constructing large structures in space for a variety of applications.

"When successfully flown, the Team Encounter mission will demonstrate a major advance in space propulsion, establish the financial viability of entertainment-oriented space missions, and give 3-5 million people a chance to participate in a real space mission," said Charles Chafer, president of Team Encounter. "The solar sail technology provides a low cost alternative to conventional propulsion approaches, opens a new opportunity to develop missions outside of the solar system, and enables a variety of new technologies allowing the exploration of the universe."

This most unique mission has already proven itself as an academic inspiration for school children. School districts around the nation have included the Team Encounter mission in their curriculum. Team Encounter is encouraging schools worldwide to use this as an educational component to build upon.

Team Encounter is offering people the opportunity to participate in this historic space mission. By logging onto, people can obtain the necessary materials to participate in this historic mission, allowing them to submit their photos, messages, and biological "signatures" (in the form of micro-hair samples), for placement on-board the spacecraft. The Team Encounter spacecraft will carry this payload, like a "cosmic message in a bottle," out of the solar system as an "archive of humanity" for whomever or whatever might discover the spacecraft in the years to come.

For more information on the Team Encounter mission, visit, or call 1-800-ORBIT-11.

// end //

More news releases and status reports or top stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

SpaceRef Newsletter