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Re: Steam Powered Starships?

From: tom.anderson@a...
Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998 16:09:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Steam Powered Starships?

 ---- Mick Blair wrote: 
> Steam Powered Starships?
> It seems a safe bet that the ships in Full Thrust are Fusion powered. 
> The question is how do that convert heat from the reactor into 
> electricity?

eh? why do we want electricity? we do need a spot of electricity to
power such luxuries as computers and lights, but the main point of the
engines is to generate thrust. this could be done extremely effectively
by using the fusion core to heat water, producing superheated steam
which would then be jetted out the back, or through maneuvering thruster
nozzles, to propel the ship - action and reaction, all your basic rocket
theory. i doubt that there would be any other materials with the same
combination of good (high) density, fluidity, cheapness and ease of
handling (only safety equipment required: wellies, waterproof overcoat
and overtrousers and a lifejacket for tank-cleaners!).

this is, i think, how the maneuver drive worked on the orion in
'footfall', in at least one mars-colony story (Earth authorities getting
moody about mars ships landing on earth, filing tanks with seawater and
blasting off, using up all that precious water, so martians capture a
achunk of ice from Saturn for fuel), and probably in n million other
hard-sf stories.

lots of auxiliary machinery could be run off taps into the steam pipes:
air pumps, generators, gyroscopes, cookers, airlock doors, trouser
presses ...

a network of pipes would run all over the ship to deliver steam at
various pressures (high for generators, low for clothes irons); this
would require steam sockets in most spaces, just like we have electric

cometary nuclei and gas-giant rings (think Saturn) would be valuable as
sources of reaction mass - two depleted fleets fighting over the only
sizeable chunk of rock in the system might make for a good scenario.

> Emergency power might be generated by a solar boiler. A mirror array 
> focuses sunlight onto water tubes, producing steam for the turbines.

or the crew would have emergency primus stoves ("pump, dammit, pump!").

> This brings about the image of a fleet in orbit having to wait until 
> they have raised steam before moving or fighting.

rasing steam with a fusion reactor is, i would guess, quite quick.
however, they would be dependent on 'waterers' - equivalent to todays
oilers or yesterday's coalers. hauling water through space might become
a major occupation of shipping lines (shades of Arrakis!).


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