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Space Vehicles

Space Vehicles

Space vehicles that are designed primarily for space travel alone will be unlike craft that are designed for navigating in an atmosphere. There is no need to consider aerodynamics in space or stress related to strong gravitational fields. Instead, they need to have strong hull integrity and if they are designed to rotate to create centrifugal force, they must be able to withstand all of the forces related to rotation. Likewise, strong acceleration is not likely to be a design focus in most spaceships. The economics of moving mass dictate that most ships will accelerate using constant but smaller thrust levels.

Most space vehicles are likely to be designed with standard space safety and living conditions being the primary concerns. A classical space habitat design with some form of added propulsion unit makes sense. Rotational centrifugal force to replace gravity will be essential for maintaining health. Wheel, torus or even spherical shapes will be common. With low cost solar energy and readily available cheap building materials from space rocks, larger amounts of living space per capita will be possible.

With a wheel or torus shaped core for the living space, the space vehicle will also need attached propulsion units, possibly some extended flat space material to collect solar energy in addition to the surface of the wheel and some mechanism to allow docking of smaller short range transit vehicles with the structure. Both the docking station and the propulsion units could find homes near to the center of the central rotational axis to take advantage of the zero-gee area. The solar collector could be almost anywhere, even trailed behind the structure.

Propulsion units could be attached to a spindle like core at the axis of rotation, or they could be located around the perimeter of the wheel. This will probably be determined by structural integrity issues that will vary with the design. With most vehicles planning trips that will be plotted across large frames of both space and time, they will be in orbital trajectories most of the time, rarely requiring adjustments to their flight path. This makes it practical to have most major flight adjustments performed by craft that are basically “space tugs”, whose primary mission is to connect to another vehicle and maneuver it into a new trajectory, then detach and move on to the next job. Passenger transfers from a main transit vehicle to other habitats or vehicles can be accomplished using smaller shuttle-like craft.

There will be little difference between space habitats (cities) that move in static orbital paths with no major adjustments and smaller space habitats (vehicles) that move in orbits that are designed as transit routes or that change their orbital pathways regularly. There will be swarms of smaller craft that shuttle passengers and goods between the habitats, tugs that adjust orbits and a variety of small specialized craft.

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