Getting into space

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Offline Kedamono

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Getting into space
« on: June 23, 2018, 07:29:52 PM »
Getting into space from a planet's surface is never an easy deal. You need a lot of thrust to weight and that usually means a lot of reaction mass or good old fashion rocket fuel. Or does it?

There are two ways of getting off a planet without using a ton of fuel:

Laser Launch Systems
Space Elevators

Laser Launch Systems, (Obligatory Atomic Rockets link), allow you to at least reduce the necessary reaction mass required to get a payload into orbit. These are suitable for both cargo or passenger service, and can loft a light ship into orbit using nothing more than the atmosphere for reaction mass. They can also slow ships down for a landing.

These ships would ferry up cargo to waiting ships in orbit about a world. And they are functional on worlds where more conventional fueled ships would have a hard time getting off. The Borcha homeworld has over twice the gravity of Earth, and the only viable methods off of their planet would be fusion drives, Orion bomb pumped drives, and... laser launch systems. I wonder which one they went with.

Space Elevators, (Obligatory Wikipedia link), are really only feasible on planets of Earth size or smaller. Under 1G, the mass of any proposed cable material is low enough for the cable to support itself and any cargo hung on it. It may be made from carbon nanotube reinforced graphene sheets, or something similar. It will be thickest at the center of the cable and thinnest at the ends. This to help it support it's own weight.

Since you'd be insane to build these elevators anywhere but at the equator, South America, Africa, South East Asia would all be candidates for ground stations. Since the cable is just resting on the surface of the Earth, sea-based platforms would also be possible. The Sea Cities from the game could also be starports as well.

Places like Mars and Luna, would be even better places for elevators, due to their lower gravity. Luna can only have two elevators, and they have to pass through the Earth-Luna Lagrange Points, L1 and L2. The L2 one would be twice as long as any Earth based elevator, but it's more doable with currently available materials.

Laser Launch Systems can be used anywhere on the planet, and Space Elevators can be used for bulk cargo lifting up to the orbital ports at the top of the elevator. (Because they are at the end of the elevator, down is away from the planet.) It's a 5 day trip to the port, but it might be the cheaper of the ways to get into space, so passenger crawlers are available. If you're in a hurry, you pay for a laser landing.

That implies that the Up Ports on the elevators are the defacto only space ports available to commercial or private ships. It also means that you leave your interface craft (i.e. shuttles) on your ship and pay for a light ship shuttle to get down to the planet. If you're in a hurry. Otherwise, you load your cargo into the queue and it's delivered 6 to 10 days later. So, if you have a delivery clause and the penalty is more than a ticket on a light ship, you go the cheaper method.