Status Report

DARPA 100 Year Starship Solicitation Announcement

By SpaceRef Editor
August 31, 2011
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DARPA 100 Year Starship Solicitation Announcement

The human history of exploration and grand designs–from Ferdinand Magellan to John Harrison to Roald Amundsen–has been a history of patronage and persistence. Indeed it was sustained investments over decades and sometimes centuries that ultimately yielded the marine chronometer, a passage to India (or several), circumnavigation of the globe, discovery of the poles, and drilling into the Earth’s mantle. For the past half century, the great domain for human exploration has been the cosmos. In a break with the past, however, space exploration has been principally a government-driven enterprise. While not without its spectacular successes, this has not proved–and nor would history suggest otherwise–an especially promising model for long-term investment into the fundamental challenges associated with a sustained foray into space. Neither the vagaries of the modern fiscal cycle, nor net-present-value calculations over reasonably foreseeable futures, have lent themselves to the kinds of century-long patronage and persistence needed to definitively transform mankind into a space-faring species.

While the year 2000 may have marked the symbolic milestone of a new millennium, it was also a landmark year of a very different ilk and pervasive import. It was the hundred-year anniversary of the Nobel Foundation. Founded as an endowment, “the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind,” the Nobel Foundation has had a profound impact–arguably with leverage far beyond its comparatively modest means–on discovery, innovation, and imagination across a spectrum of disciplines.

What if, then, we imagine ourselves, one hundred years from now, going to the nearest stars? What if we commit ourselves to spending the next century tackling the key technological, socio-political, and economic problems that stand in the way? What if we strive to inspire the next five generations–and rekindle the human spirit of exploration, discovery, and wonder? What are the means by which we realize this vision?

The 100 Year StarshipTM (100YSSTM) is a project seeded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with NASA Ames Research Center as executing agent, to develop a viable and sustainable non-governmental organization for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel viable. The goal is to develop an investment vehicle–with the patronage and guidance of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and technology visionaries–which provides the stability for sustained investment over a century-long time horizon, concomitant with the agility to respond to the accelerating pace of technological, social, and other change.

It is easy to focus singularly on the meaty technical challenges posed by interstellar spaceflight as we conceive of it today. From overcoming the tyranny of the rocket equation, to the construction of an O’Neill Colony, the technological horizon is replete with interesting problems. However, just as Alfred Nobel could never have imagined the physics, chemistry, or medicine of a century later, so we are well-advised to temper our pretenses to predict the future. Instead, we seek to focus on the flexible yet robust mechanisms: by which an investment vehicle can be created and sustained, wholly devoid of government subsidy or control; by which grants, scholarships, prizes, and contracts can be awarded to worthwhile undertakings–in the sciences, engineering, humanities, or the arts–in pursuit of the vision of interstellar flight; and by which a renaissance of wonder can be stoked in the youths of successive generations.

This announcement is intended to solicit proposals detailing the “machinery” of the 100YSS business stratagem, and will result in the award of a grant to bring the 100YSS organization into existence and cover start-up costs, as well as some initial intellectual property. A principal assumption underlying DARPA’s grant award is that it will constitute the totality of government investment in the 100YSS organization.

In attempting to achieve major endeavors, such as the first flight to the moon, mankind has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible technically. In addition to yielding a long-term impact, it typically has very real near-term benefits. Space programs and related investments to date have resulted in benefits as far flung as improving water purification processes to better data communications protocols to enhancing breast cancer detection. The technologies developed as part of the 100YSS undertaking will have very direct impact here on earth, including benefitting DARPA’s principal customer–the American warfighter.

Offerors should consider and describe in detail all aspects of the proposed 100YSS organization, including ownership, management and organizational structure, sources of income and fundraising, and approaches to making investments including mechanisms, areas of interest, and investment criteria. This solicitation is not intended to be prescriptive vis-a-vis the various attributes of the 100YSS organization. Thus, for instance, offerors need not confine themselves to conventional for-profit or non-profit corporate forms and are encouraged to explore innovative constructs. Similarly, the 100YSS organization can effectuate its mission in a myriad of ways, ranging from giving contracts and grants, to performing in-house research and development, operating educational institutions, lobbying, authoring, proselytizing, inspiring, and otherwise permeating the popular conscience with the dream of interstellar travel.

DARPA does not intend to host a Proposers’ Day for this solicitation, although written questions may be submitted via e-mail to DARPA will supply periodic question and answer (Q&A) documents on the solicitation page on which this announcement is posted.

Additionally, all interested parties are advised of the 100YSS Public Symposium which will take place September 29 through October 2, 2011 at the Hilton Orlando Convention Center in Orlando, FL. The Symposium is a free event open to all. Further information may be found at Neither attendance nor participation in the symposium is required to propose to his solicitation; it will not be considered as a factor in the evaluation of proposals.

100 Year Starship Solicitation Announcement
Solicitation Number: DARPA-RA-11-70
Agency: Other Defense Agencies
Office: Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Location: Contracts Management Office

Solicitation Number:
Notice Type:


Added: Aug 26, 2011 2:27 pm

Solicitation Announcement for 100 Year Starship (100YSS) – For a detailed description of this opportunity please see the attached file “DARPA-RA-11-70.pdf”. This solicitation announcement represents the FINAL solicitation for the 100 Year Starship project. Any subsequent changes will be provided as amendments to this solicitation. Please email all questions/inquiries to

Please consult the list of document viewers if you cannot open a file. DARPA-RA-11-70

Type: Other (Draft RFPs/RFIs, Responses to Questions, etc..)

Posted Date: August 26, 2011 DARPA-RA-11-70.pdf (168.25 Kb)

Description: DARPA-RA-11-70 SF424.pdf (153.01 Kb) Description: SF-424

Contracting Office Address:
3701 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1714

Primary Point of Contact.:
Chris Glista,
Contracting Officer

Secondary Point of Contact:
Paul Eremenko, Program Manager, DARPA/TTO

SpaceRef staff editor.