Trope-a-Day: Ramscoop

Ramscoop: The classic ramscoop as a starship drive is not a terribly common design feature, since they are (for reasons explained at Atomic Rockets) awfully draggy and power-hungry and thus limited in top speed. Much more common is using the technology as a magnetic sail brake to decelerate a fusion rocket, which braking technology has the advantage of letting you top off your tanks at the same time.

Now, the ramscoop that lets you dip fuel from a suitable gas giant, that is used. Typically on specialized scooper small-craft (mostly carried by warships, exploration ships, and others who may need to refuel away from normal fueling stations that have other, better ways to mine gas) and relatively small ships only, because it requires a specialized hull shape and frame along with heat-sink and radiator capacity to avoid incinerating yourself trying to pull it off, but it’s still relatively common.

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