gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
[personal profile] gridlore
All right then. I've written about the hyperdrive, I've written about the weapons systems, so how about the ships themselves, as they are going to be characters in their own right as the book progresses.

In essence, all ships are the same, whether it is a Greek galley carrying goods to Constantinople or an interstellar-capable warship bristling with energy weapons. They both exist to transport people and cargo through a medium that is hazardous to unprotected humans. So there are certain basics functions that need to be covered.

The first is life support. In space, you need to maintain a breathable atmosphere, a livable temperature, and provide clean food and water while dealing with the inevitable waste products of life. The fist problem is handled by encasing the ship in an airtight hull with as few openings as possible. For most ships, advanced composites over metal sheeting is sufficient to handle both the pressure differences between the crew areas and the vacuum of space. Warships tend to pile on armor, mainly made of custom grown slabs of diamond and layers designed to quickly dissipate heat. More about that in another post.

Temperature control has been the gremlin stalking science fiction writers since we first understood the problem of getting rid of heat in space. The International Space Station has those giant "wings" not for solar power, but to get rid of heat. The Space Shuttle had orbit with its cargo doors open for the same reason. Without an effective method of bleeding heat, your safe time in space is limited. I'm thinking that a combination of extremely effective heat dumps and some sort of gravitic funnel will help vent excess heat. It will also create a noticeable infrared plume when in operation. Civilian ships, which operate at lower energy levels, will be easier to cool, and can risk traditional methods like radiator wings.

Clean food and water mean mass and space. An average human requires about 3 liters of water per day and about 2,500 calories of food intake to remain healthy. Starships use intensive water and waste recycling to reduce the need for more storage. But still, a ship with a thousand-person crew is going to need to devote a great deal of space to food and water storage, not to mention preparation areas and places to eat, as food is a communal thing in most cultures. In history, ships, especially submarines, heading out for long journeys tended to be packed to the walls with consumables. This is a good model for me to adhere to. Also, there's no reason why most ships couldn't have a few hydroponic gardens aboard to provide fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish. Also, these gardens help with the air recycling.

Now that we're somewhat safely in our ship, it's time to go somewhere. Since the nature of the hyperdrive demands a trip to the point where it is easy to enter hyperspace, the ships need a "real space" engine. This comes in the form of a reactionless thruster. Reactionless, in this context, means that the ship isn't using exhaust products to push itself forward, like a rocket does. Instead, the thruster uses the same control of gravity seen elsewhere to push against the universe itself.

These are going to be "hot" thrusters, as they produces a great deal of electromagnetic waste when in operation. They will be painfully bright to look at, produce very odd and dangerous gravitational fields in their immediate vicinity, and the plates themselves will produce a great deal of heat when in operation. Which means the plates cannot be inside the ship's structure, but stick out. This makes them juicy targets in battle.

The thruster drive is directional, meaning that the plates are built for an optional direction of thrust. They can be "feathered" to angle their thrust up to 180 degrees from the optional thrust line, but with decreasing effectiveness. Using your drive to slow down without flipping the ship can result in a loss of nearly 90% of the drive's power. Most ships just flip to decelerate.

Constant acceleration provided by these thruster plates varies by design and available power. Most have a "cruising" acceleration of between 1 and 2g of constant acceleration. Higher-powered drives can push up to 10g, which strains the ability of compensator systems. The drives used on kinetic-kill short attack missiles can blast a mind-numbing 50g acceleration, but the drive quickly overheats and fails. Since the missile is supposed to flash to plasma inside an enemy ship anyway, it's no big loss.

Almost all ships capable of interstellar flight have complete interior artificial gravity and acceleration compensation. If you were aboard one of these vessels, you would have no sense of movement at all. Additionally, there is a weak "deflector beam" used to push the gravel of space out of a ships path. Attempts to upgrade this system into something stronger have been stymied by the huge power requirements.

Losing your gravity is a bad thing, especially if the ship is under acceleration. Because it can happen, most naval architects plan ships as "stacks" with the main thruster assembly at the perceived bottom and the navigational deflector at the top. That way, if there is a mishap, there aren't any kilometer-long accessways to fall down. Designs vary, with luxury liners seemingly addicted to the "long deck" approach.

Finally, what do ships look like? The answer is, what every they want to look like. Warships tend to be long wedges or cones so they can get all their weapons facing a target. Freighters are spheres or cylinders to maximize holding space. Almost any design has been tried once, and is probably still flying.

Next up, how a ship runs.
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gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)

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