Breakthrough Propulsion Physics is an emerging scientific discipline relevant to such notions as faster-than-light travel, gravity control, and space drives, all of which are breakthrough concepts that could potentially revolutionize spaceflight and enable interstellar voyages. These concepts have moved from the realm of science fiction to the realm of mainstream academic and industrial research with increasing numbers of publications appearing in reputable peer-review scientific journals and books.
This emergent discipline falls within the domain of scientific inquiry instead of technology, with the distinction being that scientific inquiry is about uncovering the laws of nature while technology is about applying that science to build useful devices. Because existing technology is inadequate for traversing interstellar distances (even if advanced to the limit of its underlying physics), the only way to circumvent these limits is to discover new propulsion science. In addition to their utility for spaceflight, the discovery of any new force-production or energy-exchange principles would lead to a whole new class of technologies.
Although no breakthroughs appear imminent, enough progress has been made to provide the groundwork for deeper academic inquiries, both with the science itself and with the programmatic methods for tackling such provocative goals. If the history of scientific and technological revolutions is any indication, this topic could one day eclipse familiar aerospace technology and enable humanity to travel to habitable exoplanets orbiting distant stars.
Breakthrough Propulsion Physics is predominantly at steps 1 and 2 of the scientific method, i.e., defining the problem and collecting data with a few approaches already testing hypotheses.
The Centauri Dreams website provides excellent news reporting, reviews, commentary, and additional resources on all topics concerned with interstellar flight, interstellar exploration missions, and advanced and breakthrough propulsion physics.
The Tau Zero Foundation promotes and supports incremental advancements in the multidisciplinary science, technology, and education comprising the study and development of breakthrough propulsion physics and interstellar flight.
Project Icarus is a theoretical design study with the aim of designing a credible interstellar probe that will serve as a concept design for a potential mission that could be launched before the end of the 21st century. Icarus would utilize fusion based engine technology which could accelerate an interstellar probe to approximately 10% of the speed of light. Project Icarus is a Tau Zero Foundation initiative in collaboration with The British Interplanetary Society. Project Icarus webpages of interest are the Daedalus and Icarus Gallery, the Icarus Blog, and the series of Discovery News feature stories that cover the scope of Project Icarus.
The British Interplanetary Society (BIS) is Britain's leading think tank on space development. Founded in 1933, it is the world's longest established organization devoted solely to supporting and promoting the exploration of space and astronautics. The BIS is devoted to initiating, promoting and disseminating new concepts and technical information about space flight and astronautics through meetings, symposia, publications, visits and exhibitions.