The Space Settlers' Society  Page 2b.
What Is that Weirdo Contraption and How does it Work?

It's an Interstellar Ramjet, not to exact scale, but sufficiently so to give some idea of what such vehicles may be like. Perhaps a diagram might help. Don't let the fact that it's facing in the opposite direction to the one in the original pic put you off :-

1. The two white cylinders are each O'Neill-type habitats, about 20 miles (32 km) long. Between them, with recycling, they'd house and provide ground-space to feed up to 10 million future space settlers. In planetary orbit they'd spin in opposite directions to provide artifical gravity, but in transit between stellar systems the ship would either be accelerating or decelerating at 1g, so the internal floor plans would automatically reconfigure their positioning and acceleration or deceleration would substitute for gravity.

2. Ablative shields to give some protection against any interstellar rocks which escape...

3. Laser-gun shields each formed of a spinning cone of lasers with varying angles, thus enabling the beams to spiral outwards cutting any incoming space debris into its constituent sub-atomic particles.

4. Intakes and exhausts. There'd be one of each at each end to facilitate changes in direction of acceleration - with automatic internal floor-space reconfiguration. The intakes would consist of a laser-gun cone and a cone of magnetic field projectors and generators. The laser-guns would protect in the same way as before, but the magnetic fields would then direct the incoming particles down into their tubes...

5. Interstellar Ramjet tubes running the entire length, would feed incoming particles from bow to stern where nuclear heat engines would give them a parting boost out of the exhaust, thus propelling the ship. Within the central pipe the tubes would be well insulated, and there would be space for storage, gymnasia and other recreational pursuits, laboratories etc., all of which would be a zero-g area when in planetary orbit.

It has been shown that providing such a ship can be accelerated up to around 100,000 kph within a stellar system, by chemical rocket or other means, then interstellar gas and dust should generally be sufficiently dense to make such ramjet propulsion possible. Travelling time will depend on distance, and to some extent this may depend on distribution of suitable planets for human habitation. Various estimates have been made, but if they average 20 light years apart, for example, usual travelling time might average around 150 years. Generations, yes, but not too many of them. A trip from our solar system to that of Proxima Centauri may take around, or less than, 30 years.

A Challenge for the Inventive and Innovative among You!
To keep the passengers healthy, an interstellar ramjet would have to travel at an acceleration of 1G or at least a reasonable portion thereof, but at an acceleration of a G you'd reach light-speed within a year. Generally around a 6th of the speed of light is considered for various reasons, to be the maximum achievable in real life. So our ramjets would have to accelerate at a G or good part thereof until they reached a velocity approaching that, then spend some time slowing down before accelerating up again, making their journey in hops or jumps. There are various ways of slowing down, but one thing you can't do, is put an interstellar ramjet in reverse, because that way no fuel would be coming in. What then, is the best way to slow down, and in a controlled manner, and how do you do it so that the deceleration is kept at around a G or a good portion thereof?

Further, if possible, we don't want to carry much in the way of fuel. Interstellar ramjets use intersteller gases as their fuel, their advantage is that they don't need to carry fuel, so if we have to carry it anyway for slowing down, we cancel out the advantage of using this method in the first place. How's your physics? Know anything about the Zero Point Field? Can you think of a way we could tap it - perhaps doing away with the need for interstellar ramjets altogether? Send us an e-mail if you come up with any good solutions. We'll publish any that seem reasonable on our Space News pages.

For a more serious look at Interstellar Ramjets, take a look at Dr Andrew Collin's article on these that begins on the next page.

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