23 January 2009

Starship Lupine Exterior View

(Much busy, so here's a descriptive tidbit to tide you over).

At first sight, the Lupine resembles nothing so much as a junkyard sculpture of a horseshoe crab. The ship is so huge that the fine details are lot once you're far enough away to take it all in.

Originally a combination colonization/freighter/carrier vessel, one of three in the United States Space Force fleet, built back when the vacuum tube was king and the only power source up to the job of folding space to outrace light was not one but five modified Navy-type nuclear reactors,[1] it was intended to pursue the fleeing ships of what came to be known as the "Far Edge" after they swindled the USSF out of their planned Lunar missile base. By the time she was complete, it was already too late, but USSF had to find out the hard way. "Better safe than sorry," especially when your quarry possesses the means to wipe out the Earth several times over.

That, as it turned out, was never the problem. But it was a heady time, when the "black" budget swelled to unaccountable levels and a trip to space was, like as not, one-way journey. Very few people have realized that the primary goal of Project Mercury was perfecting reentry techniques: a late-1950s squirt-booster would get you to Earth orbit and beyond but landing on a celestial body was a much trickier prospect; the airless Moon allowed for "bounce-down," cushioned by JATO[2] units and vast airbags but return to Earth was problematic, as the Sgt. Snodgrass Crater in Nevada testified.

At closer range, Lupine is more "junkyard" and less "arthropod," a collection of various sized structures interconnected by corrugated tubes, vast M.C. Escher arrays of scaffolding and a myriad of random what-is-its, shoved along by acres of MHD and ion rockets underneath.
1. "How did they condense the working fluid and shed waste heat?" you ask, and considerin' that USN has entire oceans (or at least seas) to cool theirs, it's a good question. The answer, like a lot of things from the early days of the USSF, is unsatisfactory. A lot more water in the loops plus vast radiating area, for one thing; and the even more vast framework of the ship to heat up, as well. At full steam on a long jump, this meant things were...toasty...aboard at the end of it. They'd make orbit and shut as much down as possible, shining brightly in the infrared. Not at all stealthy but in a fighting-type situation, the .mil squirt-boosters would have been dropped off shortly after returning to normal space and before deceleration, so they'd be moving at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light, while the carrier vessel lagged behind.

2. Some readers want me to say "RATO" but here's the deal: we're talkin' about folks back In The Day who had just finished whuppin' Nazis. Germany had RATO units, fueled by flesh-melting T-Stoff; the United States had JATO units, running on good ol' American know-how (also solid rocket fuel). The Brits had real jet engines in theirs but in any case, JATO is what the USSF boys called 'em and so will I. Wikipedia says we're right enough.