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RE: starship-design: various antimatter, etc., drives
> Something other than reaction drives -- I agree, and my
> favorite is gravity control. Though, while on the subject of
> photon drives, how about a big old laser?
Only if efficiency jumps to near one hundred percent, in which case it would
be a photon drive.
Current lasers are extremely inefficient in the power regimes that would
produce even a milligram of thrust. Reasonably efficient lasers such as
diode lasers are not scalable to a degree where they could produce useful
thrust. The "hypothetical" laser in Hammer's Slammers still produces a great
deal of waste heat and even the smallest handheld weapon is millions of
times more powerful than all but the largest current lasers.
Even so, a photon drive still falls in the class of carrying fuel with you.
Control over inertia might allow us to achieve greater velocities from less
onboard reaction mass in the near term, gravity control might let us "surf"
the currents of space, but if some of the new theories work out, space may
turn out to have substance after all, in which case it may be possible to
simply grab it and "pull" (or push). Either way, inertia control would allow
us to accelerate much faster and achieve higher velocities much more quickly
without becoming a sticky green goo on the aft bulkhead...