Four seventeen year old students from St.Flannan’s College have won first prize in the most senior (12th grade,small team) category of the NASA/Ames Space Settlement Design Contest for their entry AgriScout. The College, which is famed for it’s prowess in hurling and football competitions has begun to establish itself as a serious competitor on the international stage in the realm of Space Settlement design. The four pupils Sean Donnelly, Eoghan Keane, Jason Herbert and Kieran Maher led by Physics teacher John Conneely and aided by his colleagues Michael Horgan (Biology) and Grainne O’Brien (Chemistry) have come out on top against entries from countries such as the U.S.A, Canada, Japan and Bulgaria.
Their brief was to come up with a design for a self sustaining settlement capable of supporting a community of at least 10,000 people. The competition rules state that the settlement be located, outside the Earth’s atmosphere, which could mean at any point between low Eath orbit and beyond the the orbit of Pluto. The settlement must be capable of producing artificial gravity (psuedo-gravity), food, an atmosphere, electricity and have radiation shielding. A proposal is also required as to what materials are required, how the settlement is to be assembled and how it is to be financed.
The Flannan’s team adopted the radical approach of launching payloads into space without the need for chemical rockets. Instead they based their launch system on the StarTram, which consists of an electromagnet driven propulsion tube, similar in principle to that of magnetically levitating trains. They proposed that the manufacture and build be from mainly asteroid derived materials. The settlement to be a rotating modified torus with a central hub and powered by an ITER nuclear fusion reactor. The team were inspired by the great writer Isaac Asimov to position their settlement in the asteroid belt, that is between Mars and Jupiter in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, which is thought to contain vast amounts of water ice. AgriScout was chosen as the name of the settlement. Ceres being the Roman godess of agriculture.
Flannan’s have been participants in the competition since 2010 and have managed to win second, third and honourable mentions in the past. Their latest award of first prize means that they are invited to present their project AgriScout to an audience of NASA scientists, Space Industry experts and an international mix of like minded fellow students at The International Space Development Convention in San Juan Puerto Rico on 18th May 2016. Unfortunately sponsorship will be needed to finance the participation of the college in 2016. It is hoped that Ireland’s national and multi-national high tech industry and aviation sector will step forward and support Flannan’s successful Space design team.