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starship-design: Mercury Polar Laser Station

I don't believe in starships getting help from home, in the deceleration
phase. There's no inherent reason that optics couldn't focus well enough to
provide some energy help. Just call it a religious or political preference,
or whatever. I just don't think starship passengers ought to rely on remote
conditions, light years away, for their very survival.

"Real sorry about that laser beam, folks. You know how it is, the political
and economic situation just got completely impossible back here. You're
lucky you're not around to see it, heh heh. Well, whenever you do go by
Alpha Centauri, wave real fast for all of us, because you're headed into the
wild black yonder. All of us here, really hope you'll understand..."

But I do believe that a starship can use all the help it can get in the
boost phase, as a supplement to its onboard energy capability. I'm not a fan
of lightsails, because they lack legs. I don't think getting there is half
the fun. Space for me, is all that stuff that's in the way, of where I want
to be. So the way I would handle a laser beam, is to convert its energy to
add to the Newtonian reaction boost.

This note is just about siting. It seems clear that a polar station on the
surface of the planet Mercury would be the ideal place to locate a deepspace
laser. (It is not true that Mercury has an East Pole and a West Pole! It
happens to have two equatorial hot spots, which get more zenith sunshine
than elsewhere, because of its weird rotational resonance. That's all it
is.) Arbitrarily selecting the North Pole, you have the important feature
that black sky is always available anti-sunward for heat rejection. Trying
to reject heat from a sunlit surface on Mercury is a frustration. Without a
patch of cold black sky always in sight, you couldn't stay long. Needless to
say, the other advantage of the location is constant steady sunlight. Strong
sunlight. Ideal for converting it into beamed laser energy.

There are some weak possible quibbles. A starship on a vector close to the
ecliptic plane would get periodic outages in service, as Mercury went behind
the Sun. Most destinations aren't on the ecliptic, and so the ship en route
would be constantly illuminated by the laser. It might be suggested, just to
orbit a laser station in free space. But Mercury has the advantage of local
construction materials; the place is 70% iron!

Johnny Thunderbird