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starship-design: Modular Ship Design


I have been thinking more about the modular concept. Although I still like
the idea of modularizing the ship, I am less enthusiastic about moving the
engine form one end to the other. There are a number of technical
difficulties which although, not insurmountable, would make it rather
cumbersome, chief among which is suddenly having the floor of the living
section become the ceiling....

If on the other hand the main living quarters were to be built in the center
of the ship surrounded on all sides by the fuel tank, the protection would
be optimum. Then we go back to spinning the ship end for end. Due to the
fuel/payload ratios of the first few ships to go out (assuming fusion or
fusion hybrid rather than pure antimatter) there will be plenty of fuel for

I would still want to be able to detach the engine module for local
intersystem exploration. Which means that it would need to have some
redundant tankage of its own on board. I am envisioning something like a can
in shape, with some of the systems shaped like wafers attached to the front
and rear of the can so they can be easily detached.

I also erred in assuming that a faster return trajectory was possible this
way. The problem is again the fuel to payload ratio. The mass of the
research/exploration module although not small, is insignificant when
compared to the mass of the fuel. There might be some decrease in trip time,
but I doubt it would be much.

I am still leaning toward a continuous engine burn rather than coasting. The
fuel requirement is much larger, but within reach and the decrease in trip
time is significant. The key factor there is actually going to be engine
lifetime as we had discussed earlier. Current magnetic nozzle technology is
several generations short of being able to provide burn time measured in
months or years but I feel confident that the next fifty years will see
major changes in the state of the art.

Lee Parker

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