On the Role of the Dreadnought

Just to clear up a few misconceptions that may have crept in:

David Weber, alas, has done me no favors by convincing much of the SF-reading world that the standard interstellar badass is the dreadnought.

And, yes, you may remember me saying “it sure would be nice to build nothing except dreadnoughts [for ships-of-the-plane]” back when we discussed ship types, but what I did not say is that if they did, they wouldn’t be dreadnoughts. They’d be battleships, because the modal ship classes for engaging in big set-piece space battles are always designated as battleships. Says so right in the name. Battle. Ship.

Or, to put it another way, there are a lot fewer dreadnoughts than there are battleships. (And a lot more cruisers than there are battleships, for that matter, because most missions don’t have any major fleet engagements in them. But that’s another story, already told.) This is principally for economic reasons: when you examine the requirements for a ship of the plane, the battleship sits right at the bang/buck sweet spot, so that’s what you build.

A dreadnought (and to an even greater extent, a superdreadnought) has four virtues, which is why they’re built at all:

  1. It benefits in internal space from volume increasing faster than surface area, which makes it a convenient class to carry extra stuff, from complete flagship suites through shipyard-class repair facilities for its cohorts and prisoner-of-war blocks to all that is required for the many, many specialized variants on the books.
  2. It can afford a hell of a lot of extra armoring, so you are significantly less likely to get your admiral shot off and your fleet coordination suffering if you give him a DN to ride around in.
  3. It can mount a Really Big Gun of the kind you’ll rarely need to use, but you might miss if you didn’t have any of in your plane of battle.
  4. It’s bloody terrifying. When naval architects are told to draw up plans for a DN or SD, the unspoken requirement is that it dominate the battlespace like Conan the Barbarian at a convention of preadolescent pacifists: it dreads nothing, and everything dreads it.

So there aren’t all that many in service, relatively speaking. There don’t have to be – say, speaking non-canonically and off the back of the envelope, eight squadrons in the Capital Fleet (mostly in the Sixth Flotilla, which is the IN’s heavy-hitting force), four squadrons in Home Fleet, two for Field Fleet Spinward (which borders on the Seam), and one for each of the other field fleets: say, 228 in total, not counting specialist classes and the reserve.

You can assume at least four times that in BBs.

 

Leviathan, Awake

LEVIATHAN-CLASS DREADNOUGHT

Operated by: Empire of the Star
Type: Dreadnought, General Operations
Construction: Palaxias Fleet Yards

Length: 3 km
Beam (avg.): 0.8 km
Z-Beam (avg.): 0.6 km

Dry mass: 2,500,000 tons

Gravity-well capable: No.
Atmosphere-capable: No.

Personnel: 6,736

  • 4,968 crewers
  • 1,768 espatiers
  • Thinker-class AI

Drives:

  • Imperial Navy 4×2 “Neutrino Dawn” antimatter pion drive
  • Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 4×4 “Nova Pulse” fusion torch

Propellant:

  • Deuterium slush/metallic antideuterium
  • Deuterium/helium-3 slush blend

Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 7.2 standard gravities (6.7 Earth G)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust: 8.4 standard gravities (7.8 Earth G)
Maximum velocity: 0.3 c (rated, based on particle shielding)

Drones:

  • 144 x AKVs (loadout varies by mission, typically Daggerfan-class)
  • 144 x add-on thrust packs for AKVs
  • 72 x “Buckler VI” point-defense supplementary drones, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 72 x “Rook” tactical observation platforms, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective (with supplementary IN hardware)
  • 72 x general-duty modular drones

Sensors:

  • 3 x independent standard navigational sensor suite, Cilmínar Spaceworks
  • 18 x [classified] enhanced active/passive tactical sensory suite, Sy Astronautic Engineering Collective
  • Imperial Navy tactically-enhanced longscan

Weapons (Primary):

  • 4800/2400 mm custom axial heavy mass driver, Artifice Armaments, ICC

Weapons (Secondary):

  • 4 x 4800/2400 mm custom heavy mass drivers, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 4 x “Black Lightning” axial grasers, Artifice Armaments, ICC

Weapons (Tertiary):

  • 64 x 2400/1200 mm turreted mass drivers (32 capable of broadside use), Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 8 x 2400/1200 mm turreted mass drivers (rear-firing for kilt defense), Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • 32 x “Flashburn” turreted heavy lasers, Artifice Armaments, ICC
  • Artifice Armaments, ICC “Popcorn” point defense/CQB laser grid

Other systems:

  • 3 x Artifice Armaments, ICC cyclic kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies, ICC Mark VII regenerative life support (multiple independent systems)
  • 3 x Bright Shadow, ICC custom-build megaframe data system, plus multiple EC-1140 information furnaces for sectoral control
  • Class IV starship repair facilities
  • 8 x Extropa Energy, ICC “Calviata” second-phase fusion reactors
  • Flag bridge
  • 4 x Imperial Navy command communications/tactical networking suite
  • 4 x Imperial Navy DN-class vector-control core and associated technologies
  • 3 x Metric Engineering, ICC “Gloaming” ray shielding system
  • 3 x Nanodynamics, ICC “Phage-a-Phage” immunity
  • 32 x modular swapout regions (large)
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies, ICC high-capacity thermal sinks and dual-mode radiative striping

Small craft:

  • 8 x Reaver-class starfighters, with own AKVs
  • 8 x Nelyn-class modular cutters
  • 4 x Ékalaman-class pinnace/shuttle (atmosphere capable)
  • 16 x Élyn-class microcutter
  • 16 x Traest Sargas-class troop transport
  • 32 x Adhaïc-class workpod
  • 32 x Marlinspike-class boarding torpedo
  • 32 x Sledgehammer-class drop shuttle

From without, the Leviathan-class dreadnought resembles a slender wedge, a dagger-blade without a hilt. It is, of course, rather larger than virtually all equivalent dreadnought classes and even some superdreadnought classes seen elsewhere, in keeping with the Empire’s naval construction policy of “shock and awesome”.

This should come as no surprise to anyone, since the realities of armoring such a vessel mandate such a glacis, and as such virtually all ships of the plane, of whatever origin, share this common feature. The Leviathan mixes this up slightly, having a change in ratio along its length that gives the hull a subtle curve and the ship entire a forward-leaning, sleek and hungry look.

(Although those who serve aboard Leviathans, especially back in the maneuvering sector, tend to describe their workplace as the ship’s “fat ass”.)

As is also usual, the apparent outer hull of the vessel is entirely composed of armor plating, which in the case of the Leviathan is a little over 30m thick, comprised of multiple layers of heavy plate, Whipple foam, radiation-absorbent material, thermal superconductors, dilatant shock gel, flexible spreader trusses, and other necessities for survivability in the modern high-energy battlespace, many of which remain classified.

(The important thing to remember about this armor plating is that it is not there to protect against a direct hit from an opposing capital ship. No practicable material will do that. It’s there to protect against the spallation debris left behind after your point-defense grid sweeps the sky like the hand of an angry laser-spewing god.)

This armor serves as a backup to the triple-layered cyclic kinetic barrier system with which the Leviathan is equipped, along with the likewise triple-layered ray shielding to protect against photonic attack.

The majority of the space within this outer hull is unpressurized volume, occupied by machinery space, bunkerage, stores (tanks and unpressurized cargo holds), accessways, robot hotels, and magazines. The habitable volume is represented by a relatively small (roughly equivalent to a 232-storey building, laid out tail-lander style) cylinder buried deep within this, above the axial passage for the primary mass driver, with two attendant counter-rotating gravity rings providing space for gravity-requiring special facilities. Below and to port and starboard of this passage can be found the eight fusion reactors providing non-thrust power to the Leviathan.

In addition to the primary (axial) heavy mass driver, the Leviathan mounts four secondary heavy mass drivers of only slightly lower power along its dorsal-ventral centerline, spread out at 15 and 30 degrees off-axis (although with off-bore firing capability), along with four heavy grasers clustered around, and aligned to, the axial primary.

Tertiary weapons systems consist of 64 turreted mass drivers and 32 turreted heavy lasers, of which half can slew far enough to be capable of broadside firing. An additional eight turreted mass drivers are mounted on the stern for kilt defense, should the prospect of attacking through, or at best in close proximity to, the emissions plume of the Leviathan‘s 24 torch drives not be sufficient deterrent. Finally, the Leviathan is equipped with the Artifice Armaments “Popcorn” laser grid for point-defense and CQB purposes, ensuring that anyone foolish enough to close to point-defense range will have mere microseconds to contemplate their folly before vaporizing in one of the most spectacular coruscations known to sophontkind.

Also pressurized are portions of the “docks and locks” sections to port and starboard, 500 meters for’ard of the drives, which house the Leviathan‘s small craft complement. These are buried beneath the starship’s outer hull armor, which is designed to retract under non-combat conditions to provide ingress. In light of this, the multiple AKV wings and drones are launched via dog-leg tubes through the dorsal and ventral armor, and recovered – if this is necessary during an engagement – when circumstances permit turning broadside to the enemy and recovering through the far-side landing bay.

As a dreadnought, the Leviathan is equipped with a flag bridge and communications/tactical mesh suite for task force command; with the capability to effect repairs on smaller vessels of its task force; with the ability to deploy starfighters for patrol or remote operations missions; and with a substantial espatier force and the means to deploy them, whether in boarding operations or for groundside raids.

 

Random Stuff/Questions

Randomness: I’ve just rewatched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Thus, for anyone who wasn’t around the first time it came up, this is your reminder that wuxia is a good model for what classical melee combat looks like in the ‘verse – only glowier, since space magic, unlike qi, has that as a side effect.

(It only gets crazier when done in microgravity.)


Question: how much are the Imperial Couple permanently vastened by on their coronation; and why?

In the modern day, quite a lot. Coronation comes with a semi-Fusion with the Imperial Presence, which is one of the Transcend’s archai, in addition to serving as a repository for the memories – or, in the earliest cases, the eidolons – of all their predecessors.

(The same thing applies to the various Ministers of the Throne, although on a more temporary basis, who have a synnoetic relationship with the appropriate member of the Ennead, the nine archai which correspond roughly to the Ministries – the Comptroller, the Warmind, the Signet, et. al.. A busy meeting of the Stellar Council can burn through a lot of cycles.)

Why? Well, who can afford a competence gap?


More Randomness: This story; which can be summed up as “Ontario initiates basic income pilot program; people make decisions based on program as it was explained to them; new government cancels program abruptly; people whose decisions were retroactively made bad are really, really pissed at being stabbed in the back”.

Makes an excellent case study for EX0487: Exosophontology of Mass Coercion, I deem. Probably in that subsection titled “Democracies: Naturally Treacherous or Just Incompetent?” (See, this is why we think social contracts, being all implicit and unilaterally modifiable, are what is technically known as “bullshit”. Actual contracts, now those are something you can build a society on.)


Question: In lieu of my previous question: What does the local culture make of the idea of what TVTropes calls the “Humongous Mecha“?

Mostly, that it’s a damn silly idea. Let’s take what could be a perfectly respectable armored vehicle, then give it a huge target profile, a statically unstable single-point-of-failure (in the sense of “shoot it in the ankle, it falls over”) locomotion system and probable ground pressure issues, then strip off some of the ranged weaponry and replace it with melee-range kit.

Then let’s throw the designer out the airlock for thinking any of that was a good idea.

Whatever coolness factor it may have is entirely overwhelmed by the audience’s awareness of just how many Idiot Balls the responsible parties were holding. They may have a certain intimidation factor going for them, but there’s already plenty of that available, and if you need to turn it up to eleven, there’s always the Fight In The Shade maneuver.

(Walkers, they have, for handling certain types of terrain, but they’re sensible low-slung spidery-legged types.)


Randomness: Marines 3D-print a barracks. The world gets a little more like Starcraft every day.

But we have not yet gone full ‘verse until they can print a version with a bioprinter inside that goes on to 3D print Marines


Question: On the subject of pronouns (and particularly Japanese pronoun equivalents): Does eldraeic have any that would fill the role of kisama ( 貴様 ) or onore ( 己 ), for those moments when you really need to call someone out?

It’s not a pronoun, but it is an affix that can be attached to a pronoun. Or anything else, of course.

(And it’s not defined yet, so I can’t quote it for you.)


More coming, but let’s go with this for now…

 

Next Question Batch

So today I was catching up on another work I’ve been following on another site, and one of the chapters reminded me of some of the discussions we (all, collectively) have had about the UBI / Citizen’s Dividend here.

(Click through to read and scroll down to the bit starting “Welcome, XIAOTING, LI.”.)

What would the eldrae think of the ethics of implementing a UBI “with strings attached” as portrayed in that excerpt there?

In their own context, that’s unconstitutional at least twice over. (Since I’ve published the Charter on here, determining exactly which ways are left as an exercise for the reader.)

In other people’s context? Well, what position do you think the self-designated Freest of the Free have on jerking people around with conditioned promises?

(Or, for that matter, calling something Universal when it patently isn’t? If you want to bribe people into good behavior – or even listening to your homilies on good behavior – hire and pay ’em. Don’t try and dress up bullshit as beefsteak.)

While reviewing some of our older discussions, I re-read this line from a still older post:

>What possible use is there for a [nuclear] bomb that completely obliterates the economic value of whatever you’re fighting over?

Which prompted the idle thought: What would the Imperial military think of a military from another culture (like, say, *here*) where “countervalue” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countervalue ) is considered an acceptable strategy, and is explicitly so named?

To remind the groundlings, that was one person’s comment at the time that the nucleonic device was invented (“for purely peaceful purposes”).

It may also be useful at this point to summarize the general position of the Imperial Military Service on such things, which amounts to:

“Even at their best, countervalue strikes are ungentlesophly, and have no place in civilized warfare.

(pause)

“Regrettably, however, we aren’t always fighting civilized wars with gentlesophs – indeed, if anything, zakhrehain are now in the majority – which poses something of a problem. There are plenty of idiot savages out there with rulers willing to accept military losses as the cost of doing business, especially where asymmetrism and the like are concerned, and in many of those cases, zorching a city may be necessary to remind them that there are unacceptable losses; the kiloton-of-prevention-is-worth-a-gigaton-of-cure approach. Fortunately, most of these rulers have a populace of foamy-brained fanatics backing them, so at least most of your collateral budget won’t be what you might call strictly innocent.

“And then there’s seredhain, of course.”

So, while to a certain degree it’s in how you use it, you may expect them, as a rule of thumb, to be unimpressed with anyone who prefers countervalue as a strategy.

Does the Empire maintain any “class 5” biohazard facilities i.e., biohazards capable of intelligently working to escape?

Don’t they call those “prisons”? 🙂

The safest way to contain those sorts of things, of course, is to rip a mind-state and genetic reconstruction profile, then split them into one-third XORs and file them at three of the Aeon Pit facilities. Where that’s not possible… well, there are certain facilities located out in the deep black, where frozen-down entities are kept strapped to antimatter charges. Or that’s what I’ve heard. Speculation, y’know.

…or there’s always the Eft Sédir Containment Facility, out at Eye of Night. You can’t beat a gravity prison over a black hole for security – if anyone looks to be escaping, just cut the skyhook, and it’s a one-way trip to oblivion.

(Freight Containers)

What’s the mass of these containers when empty?

Do they have a standard loading mass? What about stacking height under standard gravity / thrust? A big part of the containers here is that they’re rated for stacking and you need to load them at less than labeled gross mass.

A regular 4B08 masses around 1,800 kg empty; loads 31,400 kg net. As for stacking height – you can stack them up to twelve high under standard gravity, as a rule of thumb, but gravity of course varies and thrust varies even more.

(Of course, if you have a vector-control core to evenly spread change in momentum out across your entire starship, the containers don’t feel relative acceleration and you can stack them as “high” as you want, so long as the mass will hold together under non-thrust stresses and you don’t mass-out or bulk-out the ship in the process.)

What’s the Eldrae radiation safety limit structure look like. I’m guessing that they’ve got more biological tolerance than humans due to environment and immortality, also pretty sure that they didn’t get sidetracked into believing the linear-no-threshold model. Much of our reactor design (especially in the later designs) is predicated on minimizing radiation exposure at all costs. If you can tolerate coal-plant-in-Denver levels of radiation exposure without batting an eye it makes much of the containment design easier.

It’s complicated, as you might imagine, because of various interacting factors, which don’t necessarily affect all types of radiation in the same way. I haven’t computed it in detail yet, but my rough rule of thumb is that at the low end of the curve, you can double, as a guesstimate, the acute and chronic exposure dose for a given effect, and end up in roughly the right ballpark. It doesn’t hold as well at the high end.

Where things get particularly complex is with an immune and self-repair system built for immortality, and it’s effects on say, cancer, or as it’s known there, the small rot. Effectively, if it hasn’t suffered a huge insult, that immune system will pretty much shrug off even minor tumors, or even larger ones if the main body is cut out; only chronic exposure that drives them metastatic (the wandering rot) is likely to actually kill you.

So there aren’t lifetime limits because you can’t damage yourself permanently with chronic low exposure; just exposure-per-time limits to ensure that you don’t push your body beyond the point at which it can no longer repair itself.

(As for all the various names attached to the small rot? Well, those are because a lot of people had, before there were proper measuring devices available, the habit of pushing themselves until the first symptoms of blue-blotch fever (named for the easy bruising that’s often an early sign of chronic radiation syndrome) appeared, then taking a lengthy sabbatical to recover away from nucleonic furnaces and the like, then going back to do it again… and again… and again…)

The Pronouns of Pros

(Loosely inspired by a G+ post in which I contemplate trying to phrase Eldraeic self-concepts into Japanese pronouns and honorifics: I went with a baseline of watakushi-sama, if you’re curious.)

Did you know (you did not) that archaic – or bearing in mind that it’s a deliberately designed language, prototype – Eldraeic had no first-person pronoun? All self-references had to be done through illeism, with name, title, epithet, or some combination of the former.

IMG_0272

The Great and Powerful Trixie approves of this!

“I” was just too damn self-effacing, don’ch’know; a puny pronoun unsuited to the truly magnificent magisterial awesomeness of – well, any one of us, really. Pronouns, after all, are substitutable; individuals are very much not.

(It’s also handy when it comes to matters of valëssef, since your choice of name, title, or epithet to use lets people know which of your facets you are manifesting at the present time, without resorting to wearing masks Chresytanri-style.)

Even third-person pronouns were typically replaced by names when referring to people, for reasons of respect and because by the same principle, it lets the person addressed know which of their facets is being addressed.

Second-person pronouns were… best avoided, really.

Modern Eldraeic, however, does have a first-person pronoun (val), usable in casual speech to save time, but much like the third-person, it’s an assignable variable; it’s customary to illeize when you first speak, and on all subsequent valëssef shifts, to let people track the changes. Third person usage has tracked this change in approximately the same way.

No-one will find it particularly strange if you go full illeist, though. It just moves you into an extra-formal register.

 

A Proposal For Every Century

For various reasons, I was rereading Meditations on Moloch today, and this leapt out at me:

14. Congress. Only 9% of Americans like it, suggesting a lower approval rating than cockroaches, head lice, or traffic jams. However, 62% of people who know who their own Congressional representative is approve of them. In theory, it should be really hard to have a democratically elected body that maintains a 9% approval rating for more than one election cycle. In practice, every representative’s incentive is to appeal to his or her constituency while throwing the rest of the country under the bus – something at which they apparently succeed.

From a god’s-eye-view, every Congressperson ought to think only of the good of the nation. From within the system, you do what gets you elected.

…if you were wondering, this is exactly why the Charter specifies that Senators should be chosen from the centuries, rather than from geographic areas, where the centuries are themselves filled by random assignment and as such contain roughly equal numbers of every clade, race, and other characteristic, roughly equally spread across all 234 worlds and innumerable subdivisions. Even if a Senator had a motivation for it (not being up for reelection), try figuring out how to serve the approximately 1.5 billion randomly distributed sophonts of the 714th Century specially relative to everyone else.

 

To The Moon!

(Turns out the first ship I want to do isn’t one of the ones anyone asked for. Oh, well.)

SILVERFALL-CLASS LUNAR EXPLORER – BLOCK II

Operated by: Spaceflight Initiative
Type: Early exploration vessel.
Construction: Spaceflight Initiative.

Everyone’s heard of the Silverfall-class explorer, the starship that first carried eldrae from Eliéra to its moons. (A surprisingly large number of them have visited the museum out on Seléne where Silverfall Four — Moondancer — rests in state out on the regolith, where she was flown to her resting place by her original crew, and is kept in flight-ready condition by her many admirers.)

The design discussed here is of the Block II variant of the Silverfall-class, which incorporates the modifications made to improve performance and livability after studies performed on Silverfall Zero and Silverfall One, and whose two examples can be considered representative of the class, including as they do the actual craft, Moondancer, which made the first landing on Seléne; later design revisions included a number of specialized variants, but made no further changes to the basic design.

Length: 42.2 m, of which:

  • Mission module: 12.2 m.
  • Engineering frame: 18 m (overlaps with propulsion module)
  • Propulsion module: 12 m
  • Shock absorbers and pusher/ground plate: 12 m

Beam: 12 m (mission and propulsion module); 22m (widest point)
Mass (fueled): 616,200 kg

Gravity-well capable: Yes.
Atmosphere-capable: No.

Personnel: 2 required, as follows:

Flight Commander
Flight Director/Engineer

Accommodates 6 further mission specialists.

Drive: Silverfall-specific fission pulse drive with laser trigger; cold-gas attitude control and landing system.
Fuel: Plutonium coated fuel pellets.
Cruising (sustainable) thrust: 2.4 standard gravities
Delta-v reserve: 16,800 m/s

Drones: Simple automation only.

Sensors:

Star tracker
Inertial tracking platform
Passive EM array
Short-range collision-avoidance and docking radar
Mk. 1 Eyeball

Weapons: None, unless you count the drive.

Other systems:

Thorium pebble-bed power reactor
Omnidirectional radio transceiver
Communications laser
Whipple shield (habitable area only)
Canned (non-regenerative) life support; CO2 scrubbers
Redundant flight control systems
NaK pumped-loop high-power radiators and maneuvering heat-sinks
NH3 low-power radiators

Small craft: None.

DESCRIPTION

The original Phoenix-class orbiter was once described as an explosion in a girder factory, and its smaller cousin, the Silverfall, maintains much of that look, despite at least some improvements in elegance between the designs. That, and that unlike the Phoenix, the Silverfall was designed as a pure space vessel, intended to be built at and operate from Oculus Station in Eliéra orbit, and to land only on airless Seléne and Elárion.

The layout of the Silverfall-class can be divided into four sections: the upper mission module, the engineering frame which sits atop and wraps around the propulsion module, and the shock absorber/pusher plate section at the bottom.

At the top, the mission module is divided into three tail-lander decks with plenum space in between. The uppermost deck, topped by a blunt cupola and surrounded by the various navigational and communications antennae, contains semicircular bridge and mission management sections, surrounded by the ship’s avionics. From it, an axial passage descends through the next two decks, terminating in a small engineering space (housed in an aft projection) where the mission module connects to the primary thrust truss of the engineering frame. A secondary access tube, normally depressurized, runs down from this passage through the engineering frame.

The second deck houses three pie-segment areas; the ship’s laboratory, workshop, and main stowage area. Opposite the stowage area, between the laboratory and workshop, a secondary airlock provides maintenance access while in flight to the exterior of the ship (with a ladder down to the upper levels of the engineering frame), and is the main access point when the starship is docked.

(Opposite this airlock, centered on the mission module’s vertical axis, is the gold plaque bearing the Imperial Star and the stylized rocket-and-crescent-moon of the Spaceflight Initiative, with beneath them the various names and logos of the various contributors making the Silverfall mission possible.)

The third, lowermost deck contains the crew quarters, divided into a number of modular pods, along with the galley, central mess, ‘fresher, and a small medical bay.

Six meters below the mission module is the propulsion module, a heavy steel capsule containing the guts of the nuclear-pulse drive that powers the Silverfall. For the most part, however, it is hidden by the engineering frame which wraps around and atop it, a mesh of trusses containing, most notably, the six pellet silos, evenly spaced around the ship, containing the plutonium fuel pellets, and the spherical tanks of cold-gas propellant and life-support supplies.

The lower surface of the engineering frame (along with that of the propulsion module) is the solid sheet of the protective shadow shield, protecting the upper sections of the craft from radiation produced by the pulse drive. The secondary access tube descending from the base of the mission module connects to the primary airlock, located directly above the edge of the shadow shield vertically beneath the secondary airlock, and from which a descent ladder can be lowered once the drive shroud is in place.

At its edges, laser modules extend past the edge of the shield to trigger the explosive coatings of the fuel pellets; just within those edges, sealed slots permit the segmented drive shroud to be lowered after landing, surrounding the mechanics of the shock absorbers and pusher plate, to protect disembarked astronauts from residual drive radiation.