Dr. Robert L. Forward is Owner and Chief Scientist of Forward Unlimited, a consulting firm established in 1962, and Partner and Chief Scientist of Tethers Unlimited, a partnership formed with Dr. Robert P. Hoyt in 1994. Dr. Forward obtained his B.S. in Physics from the University of Maryland in 1954, his M.S. in Applied Physics from UCLA in 1958, and his Ph.D. in Gravitational Physics from the University of Maryland in 1965. Dr. Forward has 42 years of experience in advanced space propulsion, experimental general relativity, gravitational and inertial sensors, low noise electronics, space technology, and space sciences. For 31 years, from 1956 until 1987, Dr. Forward worked at the Hughes Aircraft Company Research Laboratories in Malibu, California in positions of increasing responsibility, culminating with the position of Senior Scientist on the Director's staff. During that time he built and operated the world's first laser interferometer gravitational radiation detector, invented the rotating gravitational mass sensor, published over 70 technical publications, and was awarded 18 patents. He left Hughes in 1987 in order to spend more time writing and consulting under his own company, Forward Unlimited.
From 1983 to the present, Dr. Forward has had a series of contracts from the Air Force and NASA to explore the forefront of physics and engineering in order to find new energy sources that could produce breakthroughs in space power and propulsion. The first contract, started in 1983, "Alternate Propulsion Energy Sources," was an 8 month, $79,000 program to conduct an intense technical assessment of the latest concepts in science and engineering that show promise of leading to a major advance in space power and propulsion. The study uncovered to six concepts that had not been known before, or had been deemed unfeasible or too far off by prior advanced propulsion surveys. One of these was antiproton annihilation propulsion.
The second contract, "Antiproton Annihilation Propulsion," was a 10 month, $58,000 program, started in 1984, to determine the physical, engineering, and economic feasibility of antiproton annihilation propulsion. The conclusion of the study was that antiproton propulsion is feasible, but expensive. As a result of the study, the concept of antiproton annihilation propulsion was established firmly enough that it was able to survive the winnowing process of new technologies carried out in the 1985 Air Force Project Forecast II Study. As a result, the Air Force set up special programs to support antiproton annihilation propulsion research.
The third contract, "Advanced Space Propulsion Study," was a 14 month, $150,000 program, started in 1986, to continue to explore new propulsion concepts. The effort was to include an emphasis on the study of antiproton annihilation propulsion and to present approaches for promoting the scientific and technology issues of this concept. The contract resulted in five published papers. This contract also resulted in the compilation of an extensive Antimatter Science and Technology Bibliography.
The fourth contract, "21st Century Space Propulsion Study," was a multiyear $293,000 CPFF program running from August 1987 through May 1991. The effort called for Dr. Forward to continue monitoring the research at the forefront of physics and engineering to discover new technology and scientific phenomena that might have application to space propulsion, and based on these latest developments, propose space propulsion concepts. The study again included an emphasis on antiproton propulsion. Because this was a CPFF effort, the books of Forward Unlimited were audited by DCAA and only one cost item was disallowed.
The fifth contract, "Failsafe Multistrand Tethers for Space Propulsion," was a $50,000 1992 SBIR Phase I study with NASA/Marshall SFC that developed a failsafe multistrand tether design called the Hoytether, named after the inventor, Dr. Robert P. Hoyt, with a probability of surviving cuts by space impactors that is 500 times better than that of a single strand tether. The concept looked so promising that Dr. Forward formed the partnership Tethers Unlimited with Dr. Hoyt for the further development of Hoytethers. The partnership then won a $70,000 1994 SBIR Phase I study contract with NASA/Marshall SFC for a "Failsafe Multistrand Tether SEDS Technology Demonstration, and a $18,000 contract with then Martin Marietta for an Air Force space tether experiment. This was followed a year later by a $70,000 1995 SBIR Phase I study contract on a "High Strength-To-Weight Tapered Hoytether for LEO-GEO Payload Transport," which was completed in July 1996. This SBIR Phase I study led to the recent announcement by NASA of the award of a Phase II contract of $600,000 for two-years, scheduled to start in early 1997.
In the latter part of 1996 Dr. Forward was engaged along with Dr. Hoyt in three other Tethers Unlimited contracts, a $7,000 NASA/MSFC contract for studies of "Alternative Tether Concepts for Space Tether Systems" for highly-survivable tethers for atmospheric science missions and an electrodynamic tether for generating power for the International Space Station when its orbit is in shadow; a $25,000 contract for "Micrometeoroid Survivable Tethers for Upper Stage Applications" to support a NASA/MSFC Electro-Dynamic Upper Stage Phase A study, a $5000 NASA/JPL contract for study of a "Tether-Assisted Planetoid Sampler" that would use a sampling penetrator on the end of rotating tether to obtain a sample from the surface of an airless planetoid (from comets and asteroids to Luna and Mercury) during a flyby trajectory and return it to the Earth, and a $75,000 SAO subcontract for a "LEO-to-Lunar Tether Transport System Study" to determine the feasibility of using rapidly-rotating high-strength tethers to move payloads from LEO to GEO and on to the Lunar surface and Mars and back, all without the use of rocket propellant.
Concurrent with these Tethers Unlimited contract studies, Dr. Forward completed a Forward Unlimited $25,000 "Mass Modification Experiment Definition Study" for the Air Force in 1995; and is presently involved in two Forward Unlimited contract studies with NASA/JPL; a $90,000 "Advanced Propulsion Research Definition Study", now in its fifth year; and a recently started ten month $75,000 contract on "Deep Space Astronautics".
In addition to 126 technical publications and 19 patents, Dr. Forward has written 69 popular science articles and 10 short stories for publications such Omni, New Scientist, Analog, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica. He also has had published 13 book-length works including three science fact books and ten science fiction novels. The fiction works are "hard" science fiction, where the science is as accurate as possible.
Dr. Forward is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the American Physical Society, Sigma Xi, Sigma Pi Sigma, Interstellar Propulsion Society, Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and Authors Guild.
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10/19/96 Copyright © 1996 by Forward Unlimited.
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