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starship-design: Impact Fusion
As long as we're talking about super fast fuel pellets, forget about catching
them and then using them to make fusion. If the pellets are going fast enough
(30km/s is the number I seem to remember) and if you can direct them into
a strong, conical enclosure, then the fuel's kinetic energy will be able to
compress/heat the fuel itself as it's squeezed down at the tip of the cone,
and you'll get fusion power.
The problem with the technique on Earth is that it's nearly impossible to get
those pellet speeds without ripping it apart. But if we're already talking
about huge relative velocities, the key speed wouldn't be how fast you could
shoot the pellet (you could still use 1km/sec muzzle velocities) it would
be the relative speed between the fuel launcher and the ship, which could
easily be 30km/s or more.
As for what the ship design would look like... I don't know. A big mesh of
super-strong, high-precision conical depressions? I'll pass this one off to