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Starship Enterprise at Warp Speed
Few people know this but NASA actually has a warp drive program underway at Johnson Space Center. A recent article on the program created some open-ended questions that needed to be answered. The article seemed to imply that Harold White (who heads the project) had signed non-disclosure agreements such that he could not discuss public-funded research. That's a little unusual for NASA. So I sent a series of questions to Harold White and NASA PAO.
According to this article in Popular Science Warp Factor - A NASA scientist claims to be on the verge of faster-than-light travel: is he for real?
"The device looks like a large red velvet doughnut with wires tightly wound around a core, and it's one of two initiatives Eagleworks is pursuing, along with warp drive. It's also secret. When I ask about it, White tells me he can't disclose anything other than that the technology is further along than warp drive ... Yet when I ask how it would create the negative energy necessary to warp space-time he becomes evasive. "That gets into . . . I can tell you what I can tell you. I can't tell you what I can't tell you," he says. He explains that he has signed nondisclosure agreements that prevent him from revealing the particulars. I ask with whom he has the agreements. He says, "People come in and want to talk about some things. I just can't go into any more detail than that."
This got me wondering: Did Harold White sign NDAs as an individual? I am not sure how you can do that while working on taxpayer-funded projects as a NASA civil servant. Is this research SBU? Is it classified? Is he working for DARPA or some other funding entity while at NASA? Does NASA have Space Act Agreements or MOUs that it is not talking about? If this research is not SBU then why won't Harold White go into detail? How much is NASA spending on this anyway?
I just got this response from NASA JSC PAO:
"Forwarding Sonny White's answers to your questions:
Did Harold White sign NDAs as an individual or as a NASA civil servant? Who did he sign these NDAs with?
White has not signed any NDAs. The article has it backwards. In order for the Popular Science author to get briefed on the referenced technology, he would need to sign an NDA with the government as the noted technology has an invention disclosure. An NDA is the mechanism to protect the IP content, but still allow access to interested parties for consideration.
Is Harold White's Eagleworks advanced propulsion/warp drive research considered Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) by NASA?
No, but some of the technology has invention disclosures in the NASA system, and this information is considered SBU. It still may be accessed by interested parties in industry, academia and government with the use of an NDA.
Is Harold White receiving DARPA or other external funding while working at NASA on his advanced propulsion/warp drive research?
Not at this time.
Does NASA have Space Act Agreements or MOUs with external entities related to White's advanced propulsion/warp drive research? If so who are these agreements with?
There are current discussions on a SAA and CRADA with industry partners, but specifics on these agreements are still in negotiation and are SBU.
How much has NASA already spent on this project? How much does it intend to spend on this project? Where do the funds for Eagleworks and White's advanced propulsion/warp drive research come from? JSC? HQ?
The scope and scale of this project is small and commensurate with a university effort. Most of the equipment was pulled from storage to minimize capital procurement. Total procurement to implement the warp field interferometer is ~$50k. The funding comes from JSC.
Was this advanced propulsion/warp drive research submitted to peer review at NASA JSC? At NASA HQ? Who made the funding decision(s)?
Yes, all projects no matter the scope or scale are put through the competitive process, whether through local JSC competitive processes, or more broad agency competitive processes. In addition, Dr. White has written a peer-reviewed paper on his research that will be published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society
Are progress reports made by White as to the progress that his research team has made on advanced propulsion/warp drive research? Are these reports available to the public?
White interfaces with the broader scientific and technical community through technical conferences and scientific journals. When milestones are reached, these results will be communicated with the broader community through the most appropriate and timely mechanism to facilitate distribution of the findings.
What scientific publications have White and his team made on advanced propulsion/warp drive research?
Talks and Publications on Space Warps to date:
- White, H., Warp Field Mechanics 101, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, accepted 2013.
- Physics Colloquium on Warp Field Mechanics requested by Dickinson College, 2013.
- Encore of Warp Field Mechanics 102, technical presentation requested by SpaceVision 2012, Buffalo, NY 2012.
- Warp Field Mechanics 102, technical presentation given at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, Houston, TX, 2012.
- Encore of Warp Field Mechanics 101, technical presentation requested by AIAA, Houston Chapter, Gilruth Center, Houston, TX, 2011.
- Warp Field Mechanics 101, technical presentation given at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, Orlando, FL, 2011, available at: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20110015936_2011016932.pdf
- Successful defense of published paper "A Discussion of Space-Time Metric Engineering" as part of Ph.D. candidacy process in Physics at Rice University 2007.
- White, H., E. W. Davis, The Alcubierre Warp Drive in Higher Dimensional Spacetime, in the proceedings of Space Technology and Applications International Forum (STAIF 2006), American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings, Melville, New York, 2006.
- White, H., A Discussion of Space-Time Metric Engineering, General Relativity and Gravitation Journal, November 2003."