Trope-a-Day: Orion Drive

Orion Drive: As we mentioned way back in Nuclear Weapons Taboo, Eliera was always enriched in heavy metals, including the uranium family, and low on fossil fuels; and since the first set of uses of nuclear technology were all harmless civilian applications before anyone ever thought of weaponizing it…

Well, yeah.  Orion drives, or nuclear pulse drives rather, were an obvious development, from the early days of Project Phoenix (orbital shots), for satellite launches, and on through Project Oculus (near-orbit space station) and Project Silverfall (moon shots), and on through the early days of space colonization.  And not just for orbital maneuvering; they were used for ground launch, although replacing fission bombs swiftly with laser-triggered fusion pellets, up until they were eventually replaced with gas core closed-cycle nuclear thermal rockets, and eventually with mass driver/laser ablative hybrid drives for bulk cargo and trimodal NTRs for passengers, and eventually with beanstalks.

(Of course, this wasn’t entirely without consequences.  While the name of the Bright Desert originally referred to the glare reflecting off the pure white sand, the pleasant Cherenkov glow coming off both the glass-lined craters of the Imperial Orbital Launch Reservation and the pyramids of glass ingots stacked in the Burning Brickyard – the primary planetary nuclear waste disposal site – gives it an entirely new meaning these nights. Fancy nuke-resistant fallout-minimizing launchpads weren’t invented immediately, after all…)

Trope-a-Day: Latex Space Suit

Latex Space Suit: Yep, these (‘skinsuits’, as opposed to ‘hardsuits’) are in common use – by the civilian spacer, anyway, who has no use for, for example, vacuum-sealed hardshell combat armor – although without the ridiculous semi-Stripperiffic elements (Sheer, you say? Heh. That fabric may contain pores, but it also contains MEMS, computer mesh, wound gel vacuoles…) a lot of media justifies them with, and have been in said use right from the earliest days when the Spaceflight Initiative conducted its feasibility studies for Project Phoenix.

spacesuitThey actually look pretty similar to the prototype of such a spacesuit that Dr. Dava Newman is developing at MIT (illustrated at right), although having smartglass around to provide an infinitely configurable variable filter plus display surface lets them use somethng much more like the classic “clear bubble helmet” *there*. Add a small support/systems backpack, and you’ve got it.

Further information on this general type of spacesuit is, of course, available at Atomic Rocket. In the Imperials’ version, though, I should note further that:

  • Skillful use of smart-fabric (a long way from literal latex) and MEMS for mechanical assistance has got the prebreathing/breathing mix problems down to an irreducible minimum, in modern suits at least.
  • Integrated and self-motile nanofluids have replaced the awkward necessity of stuffing clay (see above link) into relevant places, at least once you overcome any squeamishness at the way the stuff crawls over you to get there.