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Tech Support needed for Spaceship

  1. May 19, 2014 #1

    DHF

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    Hello Folks. I am writing a Sci-Fi Tale set in the late 22nd century and I need some Help designing some aspects of the ship in my story. I started asking advice for this story in a different thread but seeing as how the topic as become more specific I figured it deserved a dedicated thread.

    The Tale is set about 250 years from now and Earth is beginning to stretch beyond The Sol system. Though I am making concessions in order to get the story going, I am trying to keep the ship as grounded in realism as possible. As such I have tried to be very conservative with Mass and fuel. It will be a one way trip, the crew will be automated and The ship will become a permanent science outpost in the Alpha Centuri system. I have the ship's propulsion worked out to where I want it but I am concerned about the shield. The ship will be moving at 11-12%c and it will be coasting between the stars for about 37 years. I need to come up with a reasonable design for a dust shield so the ship doesn't get pulverized. Others have pointed out that there is very little that can stop something hitting at 10% of the speed of light. If anyone could give me some ideas or push me in the right direction I would be grateful.

    Many Thanks.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2014 #2

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

    I wouldn't dwell on how to do this unless it were integral to your story. As an example, are you just describing it in passing as you introduce the ship to the readers or does something go wrong with it during the course of the journey and now someone needs to fix it meaning you now need to describe what they're doing to the reader.

    If you watch shows like Firefly, you'll see they talk intelligently about ship function without going into details and their motor does occasionally breakdown.

    Shield technology is a staple of sci-fi stories but we don't have any such technology today. The nearest I can think of is some kind of laser tracking and incinerate and even with that the power needed for the laser and the speed of incineration would be a problem at that speed.

    Or you could define a ship like the Puppeteer ship from Larry Niven's novels made of single molecule and advertized as totally indestructible.
     
  4. May 21, 2014 #3

    DHF

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    Indeed I did intend for problems to arise with the shield. In the rough draft the defining moment of the plot occurs after the ship has been coasting between stars for several decades, After many years the shield has accumulated considerable wear and abuse. When it comes time to decelerate, the ship needs to eject the shield before flipping around and firing its engines in reverse. since it has taken damage, it cannot be easily released and the crew needs to go out and manually detach it. This is when some of the drama starts.

    Because of this I wanted the shield to be a physical object that could be worn down but still tough enough that it could conceivably withstand such high impacts. Problem is that I cant find any physical structure that can withstand something hitting it at 10% of the speed of light. I could just hand wave and make the shield out of Andamantium or the like but I dislike doing that, I prefer to have something that could theoretically be constructed.

    Naturally if this doesn't work out then I could make adjustments to the story. The shield was my culprit but it doesn't have to be, if a physical shield is not physically possible then I will make the shield more energy based and give the crew a different reason for the EVA.
     
  5. May 21, 2014 #4

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

    Maybe its made of some super hard material like your imaginary Admantium or Unobtainium material that is unfurled like an umbrella (you could consider an iris or origami design) to deflect particles around the ship and that after years of collisions and/or lack of proper maintenance by the crew the umbrella structure can't close.

    Perhaps the shield collected a few too many dents beyond its engineering spec which somehow damage the closing mechanism.
     
  6. May 21, 2014 #5

    DHF

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    That is pretty much what I was thinking. I am just going to be vague about the shield's construction and assume that a sufficient supper hard material will exist at that point. I like the idea of the shield having a unique shape designed to deflect particles, I would also like for it to have a mild energy component to deflect gas and very tiny particles so that the physical structure of the shield only has to contend with absorbing larger impacts.
     
  7. May 21, 2014 #6

    jedishrfu

    Staff: Mentor

    maybe instead have it somehow deflect the gas into the motor for use as fuel
     
  8. May 21, 2014 #7

    DHF

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    That would be like a Ram scoop design. I had considered that but in the end I decided on a more traditional style. The ship will be very long and and very thin with the engines in the rear. The fuel tanks will be nestled along the neck of the ship and at the very head of the ship will be the crew quarters. the fuel tanks do double duty as shielding from the engines. Its the one feature that seems to be missing from every sci fi ship...the fuel tanks. so I thought I would make them very obvious in my story :)
     
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