Shooting down a ship in orbit

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Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Feb 2, 2003, 2:54:23 AM2/2/03
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New thread because I don't want the original one to go off on a writerly
tangent, it doesn't seem right.

Warrick M. Locke <warl...@mesh.net> wrote:

> On Sat, 01 Feb 2003 16:32:39 -0600, John F. Eldredge <jo...@jfeldredge.com>
> wrote:
> [snip]
> >
> > At least it appears to be
> > unlikely that this was terrorist action. The shuttle was at too high
> > an altitude (over 200,000 feet, about 38 miles) for any sort of
> > man-portable missile to have reached it, and it was reportedly under
> > heavy enough security on the ground that it is unlikely that anyone
> > could have planted a bomb in it.
>
> I don't know about ground security, but the only things in the world
> that can reach that high are on military bases and barely fit on trucks,
> and there isn't anything that can reach that high _and_ that fast.
> Ballistic missiles are slower. The BMDO wishes it had something that
> could shoot down a shuttle, but so far, no go.
>
> The exceptions are anti-satellite missiles, which have to be launched
> from jet fighters, not something you'd fail to notice if Al Qaeda
> turned up with some. And, of course, we've all promised faithfully
> not to develop any such thing. No. Definitely not. Cross our hearts.
> The one or two that used to be around are surely past their sell-by
> dates by now.
>
> Regards,
> Ric

Right now I'm musing on how war around a planet is conducted in my
universe, and I was wondering how best (or not so well, it's enought
that it works) to shoot down a ship in orbit. Do you effectively own a
planet after you've managed to secure that nobody else can orbit it (and
can you do it?) or do you still have to fear from below?

--
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan - ada...@despammed.com - this is a valid address
homepage: http://www.fantascienza.net/sfpeople/elethiomel
English blog: http://annafdd.blogspot.com/
Blog in italiano: http://fulminiesaette.blogspot.com

Al Montestruc

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Feb 2, 2003, 7:32:48 AM2/2/03
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ada...@spamcop.net (Anna Feruglio Dal Dan) wrote in message news:<1fpqvho.1nkwz4gse69dsN%ada...@spamcop.net>...

Well first off you must change your terms. In a stable orbit around a
planet, the impact of a weapon is unlikly to cause the spacecraft to
crash on the planet. So unlike battles between aircraft or battles
between floating warships, both ships will still be in orbit after one
or both is "killed". Thus playing possum is quite possible. In space
battles you will quite possibly see either massive overkill in order
to assure the enemy is really dead, or a return to the customs of the
age of fighting sail and one party surrendering and being boarded, not
necessaraly by live crew, but possibly by a robot with a nuke and a
comm link to the mothership. If the link is cut, the bomb goes off.
Boarding by either your crew or such a robot will go a long way to
assure his good behavior.

Note also that stelth and use of decoys and other deceptions will be
important as the distances are large, and sensors not all that good.
If I am in orbit say 500 miles above the surface of the earth say over
the US, and you are much higher up, say at over the equator in a
geosycronous orbit, you are going to have a devil of a time tracking
me by radar or passivly by radio transmissions if I start throwing out
aluminum foil decoys with decoy transmitters on them, ditto me
tracking you.

With a telescope I can probably pick you out, unless you put a mirror
between your space craft and me and put it such that it reflects a
patch of black sky at me. You can poke your much smaller telescope
around the mirror so all I can see is your telescope. On the other
hand I will be difficult to pick out from all the garbage on the earth
other than that I am moving fast over the ground.

>Do you effectively own a
> planet after you've managed to secure that nobody else can orbit it (and
> can you do it?)

Not with any currently understood technology due to common garden
variety stelth technology and I am not talking bout USAF high tech
stelth technology. That will be available to many as well. Even if
you solve the problem with magic "sensors" you could do so only with
enormous firepower and several ships to have the needed ovewrlapping
coverage. Even so that if somebody with a big and bad enough ship
comes along you are going to have to fight to keep control.

Suggest you read "Footfall" by Larry Niven and J.E. Pournell. They
have their science done right IMHO for an idea of how such a
battle/war might be fought.

IMHO on long afterthough, in "Footfall" the aliens who invade earth
are way too dumb and trusting, that was necessary for belivable
conflict IMHO. It is a good book IMHO, so I will not spoil it for
you.


> or do you still have to fear from below?

Think about a US "boomer" type nuclear submarine with the missiles
reprogramed to be used at targets in space. 8 independent warheads
per each missile, 24 missiles on the boat. Probably limited to
targets within ~800 miles of the surface of the earth or less.

Now your path in orbit is VERY predictable but quite fast, and you can
alter course if you can afford the propellent. The boomer is
invisble, slow and utterly unpreditable as to position other than that
he is at sea, and when he fires you can see where he was by the
missile trail, if you can see that. The boomer can have lots of
freinds who can spot for him and transmit your position and orbit
vector to him.

He waits for you till ~5 minutes or less before you pass over him,
launches at least one missile at you, dives and runs like hell. It
will be many minutes before you can get a warhead on the launch
postion during which time he can run many nautical miles and dive
deep. In the mean time you have at least 8 nuclear warheads coming at
you fast and close with lots of decoys unless you can shoot it down
inside the atmoshere, I think that is not real likley. Anyway the US
Navy could come up with decoys for inside the atmosphear that could
destract laser gunners for a while. Or the skipper could shoot
several missiles to give you lots of targets. Even if not, the sub
skipper could launch a cruise missle with a nuke and set it off a very
few minutes before he launches ( time delay depends on how long the
EMP lasts, and how "hard" vs. EMP the Trident missiles are)with a low
airburst and blind you for a few minutes while he is launching his
Trident at you.

Probable result, the space warship in low orbit is toast, or at least
the crew all have bad radiation burns, and the sub skipper survives
and relays a nastygram to the orbiting fleet to come closer so he can
shoot them.

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Feb 2, 2003, 7:47:39 AM2/2/03
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Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:

Thanks for the info

About:

> > or do you still have to fear from below?
>
> Think about a US "boomer" type nuclear submarine with the missiles
> reprogramed to be used at targets in space. 8 independent warheads
> per each missile, 24 missiles on the boat. Probably limited to
> targets within ~800 miles of the surface of the earth or less.

Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
constitute a threat too?

Charlie Stross

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Feb 2, 2003, 9:34:40 AM2/2/03
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Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <ada...@spamcop.net> declared:

>> Think about a US "boomer" type nuclear submarine with the missiles
>> reprogramed to be used at targets in space. 8 independent warheads
>> per each missile, 24 missiles on the boat. Probably limited to
>> targets within ~800 miles of the surface of the earth or less.
>
> Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
> constitute a threat too?

Yes.

Consider point #2: an anti-satellite weapon doesn't have to reach orbital
velocity, it just has to get high enough to do the job. Apogee for the
1942-vintage V2 was about 300Km, if I remember correctly, although its
peak velocity was only about 5000km/h. Many craft orbit no higher than
300Km -- the space shuttle, for example.

Now, imagine a smallish ground-based rocket; something the size of a
Scud-B will do, albeit with a better guidance system. Its job is _not_
to make a direct hit on the spacecraft. Instead, it will launch a few
minutes before the spacecraft comes over the horizon, and at main engine
burn-out it will release about a ton of tungsten ball bearings: at one
gram each, that's about a million of the things, in a cloud intended to
disperse into the spacecraft's orbital path. If the oncoming spacecraft
hits just one of these things, it is going to do so at orbital velocity
plus up to the rocket's max velocity -- call it 8-10 km/sec. That's
only about twenty times as fast as a rifle bullet, and as the kinetic
energy varies as the square of the velocity, just one of these ball
bearings is going to make a mess like an aircraft cannon shell. If the
ship hits the centre of the cloud, it will come out of the encounter
looking like a sieve.

Basically, building an anti-satellite rocket that can rip the shit
out of a spacecraft in low earth orbit is much easier than building an
anti-balistic missile defense system that has to hit an incoming warhead
the size of a trash can. You only get one shot at the incoming
warhead, and you don't have prior orbital passes to track (passively)
and build up a picture of where it'll be to the nearest metre
in exactly 92.406... minutes time. The first ASAT tests (the USAF
Callisphere/Thorburner program, IIRC) took place in the early 60's; the
USAF had a working non-nuclear on-orbit satellite killer (an air-launched
orbital kill vehicle fired from an F-15 fighter plane) in inventory
by 1986, although it was scrapped in accordance with a strategic arms
treaty. The USSR had something similar and something much, much crazier
(for real boggle value, go read up on the Polyus project some time).

Now for the down side. The sub-orbital "handful of gravel" technique is
in principle even easier to develop, but works best against satellites in
low orbit. And an orbiter can take simple precautions against it. Firstly,
keep a weather eye from high orbit for exhaust plumes -- rockets show
up like a sore thumb on infrared. An exhaust plume anywhere ahead of the
ground track of a low-altitude orbiter should be a red flag to the crew to
hit the main engine button and bug out into some other orbit. As a general
precaution, regularly manoeuvering will defeat simple ground-launched
attacks: just a one metre/sec blip on a thruster will ensure that the
ship is five kilometres away from its predicted track by the end of the
next orbit.

There are countermeasure counter-measures, of course. Sensors looking
for the infrared bloom of a missile launch will be vulnerable as hell
to a couple of ground-based infrared lasers. So a cunning ASAT launch
crew will have spent time mapping the high-orbit satellites, and will
point about four or five cheap 5-100 watt infrared lasers at every
single one of them, switching them all on about thirty seconds before
launch and switching them off a couple of minutes later, at main engine
cut-out. This takes coordination and patience to set up, but effectively
blinds the anti-ASAT defenses for the critical period when the ASAT
missile is detectable (i.e. while it's under power).

I'd say, though, that anyone in orbit who *suspects* the folks on the
ground have 1980's level tech and don't like them would be well-advised
to keep changing orbital course semi-randomly and not to fly too low
without damn good care. A planet is a very mind-bogglingly big place,
with lots of hidey-holes for nasty surprises.

-- Charlie

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Feb 2, 2003, 9:51:40 AM2/2/03
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Charlie Stross <cha...@antipope.org> wrote:

> I'd say, though, that anyone in orbit who *suspects* the folks on the
> ground have 1980's level tech and don't like them would be well-advised
> to keep changing orbital course semi-randomly and not to fly too low
> without damn good care. A planet is a very mind-bogglingly big place,
> with lots of hidey-holes for nasty surprises.

Thanks - this is all good.

James Nicoll

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Feb 2, 2003, 11:59:36 AM2/2/03
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In article <1fpra4k.ujwr4i1ko9saoN%ada...@spamcop.net>,

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
>
>Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
>constitute a threat too?
>
Lasers. Ship-borne lasers draw from a powerplant that fits
on a ship but groundbased lasers can drawn on the planetary electrical
grid. Put a 100 MW laser with targeting systems in each town, make the
power distribution EMP hardened and the invaders may have to smash
the assets of the entire planet to take it.

--
"Repress the urge to sprout wings or self-ignite!...This man's an
Episcopalian!...They have definite views."

Pibgorn Oct 31/02

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Feb 2, 2003, 12:46:28 PM2/2/03
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James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:

> In article <1fpra4k.ujwr4i1ko9saoN%ada...@spamcop.net>,
> Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
> >
> >Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
> >constitute a threat too?
> >
> Lasers. Ship-borne lasers draw from a powerplant that fits
> on a ship but groundbased lasers can drawn on the planetary electrical
> grid. Put a 100 MW laser with targeting systems in each town, make the
> power distribution EMP hardened and the invaders may have to smash
> the assets of the entire planet to take it.

Great.

Actually, I have a couple of plot points that require ground-based
combat and I needed to wrap reality about them.

James Nicoll

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Feb 2, 2003, 1:00:47 PM2/2/03
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There's also the method used in _A Small Colonial War_. The
Sud Afrikans, confronted with a fleet of ships in orbit that outguns
all of the local factions together, humbly attempt to make the commanding
officer of the mission happy by supplying him with undocumented crates
of gold, to ease his retirement. Unfortunately for him, the dense material
in the crate is actually either U235 or Pu-mumble with some plastic
explosives and a timer.

Warrick M. Locke

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Feb 2, 2003, 1:06:14 PM2/2/03
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On 2 Feb 2003 11:59:36 -0500, jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote:
> In article <1fpra4k.ujwr4i1ko9saoN%ada...@spamcop.net>,
> Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
> >
> >Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
> >constitute a threat too?
> >
> Lasers. Ship-borne lasers draw from a powerplant that fits
> on a ship but groundbased lasers can drawn on the planetary electrical
> grid. Put a 100 MW laser with targeting systems in each town, make the
> power distribution EMP hardened and the invaders may have to smash
> the assets of the entire planet to take it.

I'd also like to point out that it varies *strongly* by orbital altitude.
A satellite, or a ship, in low orbit is vulnerable, given any currently
realistic propulsion system. Missiles that can reach low orbital altitudes
and deliver a cloud of small objects are simple and cheap. If the ship
can't change orbital height easily or quickly, it's certainly possible to
augment the cloud-of-objects scenario with a large number of such missiles.

At higher altitudes the equation changes; precisely what "high" means in
this context depends on how much change-of-motion the ship or satellite
_and_ the missiles have. It takes much more energy and much more time to
reach a 500 mile altitude than a 100 mile one; the ship being shot at has
more time to observe and evade the hostile launch, and the guys on the
ground have to spend a lot more for missiles with the energy and guidance
to reach that high and fast. Getting to geosynchronous orbit is practically
impossible for a single chemical-fuel vehicle. Communications satellites
in such orbits are put there using extremely complex orbital paths, and
it's _very_ difficult to get there without attaining something close to
orbital velocity, which makes the ball-bearing tactic less feasible because
there isn't as much difference in velocity.

In general, as long as you are depending on ballistics, controlling space
from the planetary surface is going to be _really_ hard. High-altitude
orbiters have a lot of energy available simply from their height. The
guys on the ground have to get the energy to fight them from somewhere,
and that "somewhere" is difficult and expensive. Things change a bit if
you have really cheap change-of-motion (McGuffin space drives, forex) or
long-range beam weapons. Still, though, the high ground is going to be
an advantage regardless of any technology I can think of. FTL drives make
it even worse, because the enemy can come arbitrarily close without being
detected by radar-like sensors or even visual search.

Your planet-dwellers would be well advised to construct high-orbit
facilities of their own, if they want to control space near the planet.

Regards,
Ric

David Friedman

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Feb 2, 2003, 1:48:44 PM2/2/03
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In article <slrnb3qb3u....@raq981.uk2net.com.antipope.org>,
Charlie Stross <cha...@antipope.org> wrote:

> A planet is a very mind-bogglingly big place,
> with lots of hidey-holes for nasty surprises.

A fact that a lot of sf seems to miss.

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

JXStern

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Feb 2, 2003, 2:08:11 PM2/2/03
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On Sun, 2 Feb 2003 13:47:39 +0100, ada...@spamcop.net (Anna Feruglio
Dal Dan) wrote:
>Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
>constitute a threat too?

In Niven's Footfall there are ground-based particle-beam weapons.

If one wants to launch warheads into orbit, boosting them from
ground-based mass drivers might be a better start than launching from
a sub (as in Niven's Ringworld, except those were ground-based (well,
ring-based) de-cellerators!).

Along the "gravel" route, I've wondered about launching large nets of
steel or hi-tech cable -- harder to see, more likely to impact, ...
perhaps. Have to talk to some experts on the science.

J.


Charlie Stross

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Feb 2, 2003, 2:29:15 PM2/2/03
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Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> declared:

>> A planet is a very mind-bogglingly big place,
>> with lots of hidey-holes for nasty surprises.
>
> A fact that a lot of sf seems to miss.

Tell me about it.

(A fun line from the novel-due-to-be-handed-in-next-month: "whenever
I hear about a planet with just one government I start asking about
mass graves and war crimes tribunals. Luckily planetary governments are
rare." From a protagonist who, at about 150 years old, has developed
a violent aversion to museums because she's lived through too many of
the kind of events they catalogue.)

One of the easiest flaws to fall into when writing future SF is the
over-simplified planet with one crop, one predator that eats humans,
one industry, one big city, one language, and one weather pattern. In
reality, even a smallish country of five million people -- the size of
Scotland or Israel or Norway, say -- is bloody complicated, supports big
cities and weird sub-cultures, and has enough strange geography to spend
a couple of years exploring. But those countries each have less than 0.1%
of the planet's land surface area and human population. A thousandth of
the earth is still too damn much for most people to take in, although it's
possible to skip most of it by simply having the protagonists zip through
it like tourists on a high-speed package holiday. But then you need a
whole bunch of whimsical, weird, or just plain inconsistent details
to throw out along the way. "Today we're passing through the small,
picturesque province of Nether Hislop, noteworthy for it's incredible
cocoa plantations, the three ancient walled cities (one of which now
sports an arcology two kilometres high where the royal palace used to
be), and thirty-six different species of poisonous snake, one of which
likes to lurk in toilet bowls and bite unwary tourists on the ass."

And as for the space war implications ... well, Harry Turtledove got there
first with his interminable saga about not-very-bright aliens invading
earth in the middle of World War Two and wondering frustratedly every
two hundred pages why the hell these irrational hairy anarchists wouldn't
damn well appoint a planetary emperor to do their surrendering properly.

-- Charlie

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

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Feb 2, 2003, 2:49:48 PM2/2/03
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Charlie Stross <cha...@antipope.org> wrote:

> And as for the space war implications ... well, Harry Turtledove got there
> first with his interminable saga about not-very-bright aliens invading
> earth in the middle of World War Two and wondering frustratedly every
> two hundred pages why the hell these irrational hairy anarchists wouldn't
> damn well appoint a planetary emperor to do their surrendering properly.

Actually, I don't have _one_ planet, I have a war going on but I think
that it would mostly center around control of planets, an inhabitable
planet being a very precious commodity in this case. I'm trying to have
some vague ideas about how things would play out, because unfortunately
the Third Volume of the Big Novel goes there - full-scale interplanetary
war among at least three separate national entities each comprising
several systems (and yes, each of the system has its own culture).

At the moment everything is a bit confused, and not helped by the
migraine, but I really don't want it to become _too_ silly.

It's complicated by the fact that while the Small Novel I should be
working on is not explicitly about the preceding war (which went on for
nine years disputing a number of planets partially colonized by two
adjoining nations), the main charater is just back from it, has fought
in it for the whole nine years literally from the ground up, and it
would help having some idea of what kind of experiences he's gone
through in the meanwhile.

Boudewijn Rempt

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Feb 2, 2003, 2:53:42 PM2/2/03
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Charlie Stross wrote:

> Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
> as <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> declared:
>
>>> A planet is a very mind-bogglingly big place,
>>> with lots of hidey-holes for nasty surprises.
>>
>> A fact that a lot of sf seems to miss.
>
> Tell me about it.

Tell me... When I was twelve years old I started developing the setting I'm
still using. A bunch of planets in a completely different universe. A year
or so later I cottoned on to the fact that I'd got a scale problem, maybe.
So I focussed. Just one planet. About fifteen years ago I thought I'd
better limit myself to a single continent. Ten years ago I'd started
focussing on a single country. Almost doable. The single city was a smart
move, too. But that lower-middle class square near Zhusre's bakery,
at the foot of Heaven, that's my natural milieu...
--
Boudewijn Rempt | http://www.valdyas.org

Al Montestruc

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Feb 2, 2003, 4:02:17 PM2/2/03
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ada...@spamcop.net (Anna Feruglio Dal Dan) wrote in message news:<1fpra4k.ujwr4i1ko9saoN%ada...@spamcop.net>...

> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>
> Thanks for the info
>
> About:
>
> > > or do you still have to fear from below?
> >
> > Think about a US "boomer" type nuclear submarine with the missiles
> > reprogramed to be used at targets in space. 8 independent warheads
> > per each missile, 24 missiles on the boat. Probably limited to
> > targets within ~800 miles of the surface of the earth or less.
>
> Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
> constitute a threat too?


Yes, but less so. A Russian truck mounted mobile ICBM launcher unit
could pull the same trick, but cannot hide as well, and is more
vulnerable to counterstrike from space. Also they only carry one
missile per truck. On the other hand they are cheaper, even per
missile, and I think the Russians have lots more of them than we have
subs. Last I recall the USA has 18 boomers,the UK a very few, the
Russians have a simaler number to the USA of inferior quality that are
in very bad condition, and most would need a lot of work to put to
sea.

ICBMs in silos would be spotted from space and taken out quickly, so
those missiles would have to be used quickly or lost. If the aliens
showed up right now in earth orbit and started shooting right off the
bat, you can forget about those, and probably most boomers in port,
say 1/2 the US fleet and probably one or two UK boats, and perhaps one
or two Russian boats would survive. Most Russianm truck mounted
mobile launchers would also be in good shape.

Now you would need to reprogram the missiles and I have no idea how
big o a pain in the butt that will be, probably take a week or so for
each type, and you would have to get the data to the boomers.
Probably by a resupply boat. The subs can resupply by partly sufacing
next to a resupply boat disguised as a fishing boat or other minor
vessel to get food and spare parts and the like. Ideally this would
be under cloud cover quickly when you know that enemy ships or spy
satts are not in line of site or at least do not have a good view.

Charlie Stross

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Feb 2, 2003, 4:38:14 PM2/2/03
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Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <monte...@lycos.com> declared:

> Last I recall the USA has 18 boomers,the UK a very few,

Four SSBNs carrying Trident D-5's, 16 missiles per sub.

You also missed out France -- four SSBNs carrying something at least
as good as a late-model Poseidon system. China has one SSBN, although
whether it's any good is an open question.

-- Charlie

Emiliano Farinella

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Feb 2, 2003, 5:23:49 PM2/2/03
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Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:

> In a stable orbit around a
> planet, the impact of a weapon is unlikly to cause the spacecraft to
> crash on the planet.

If you hit a spacecraft in orbit, how long is the orbit _stable_?

Emiliano Farinella
--
"Science as a candle in the dark" -- Carl Sagan

Dan Goodman

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Feb 2, 2003, 5:47:32 PM2/2/03
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e.attentioncut...@libero.it (Emiliano Farinella) wrote in
news:1fps0ny.1a6n5f54jhz8bN%e.attentioncut...@libero.it:

> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>
>> In a stable orbit around a
>> planet, the impact of a weapon is unlikly to cause the spacecraft to
>> crash on the planet.
>
> If you hit a spacecraft in orbit, how long is the orbit _stable_?

Depends what you hit it with. If you use a weapon which merely kills off
everyone inside, then it'll be as stable as if nothing had happened.
However, staying in that orbit might require adjustments which the crew
(being dead) is no longer able to make.

Jonathan L Cunningham

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Feb 2, 2003, 7:17:14 PM2/2/03
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On Sun, 2 Feb 2003 19:29:15 +0000, Charlie Stross
<cha...@antipope.org> wrote:

>One of the easiest flaws to fall into when writing future SF is the
>over-simplified planet with one crop, one predator that eats humans,
>one industry, one big city, one language, and one weather pattern. In
>reality, even a smallish country of five million people -- the size of
>Scotland or Israel or Norway, say

Eh? Since Norway is about a third again bigger than the whole of the
UK, including it with Scotland as a "small country" could be
considered by someone as a bit strange -- oh, you mean
population? Then why are you talking about

> -- is bloody complicated, supports big
> cities and weird sub-cultures, and has enough strange geography to spend
> a couple of years exploring.

Tsk, tsk. Population is not the same as geography.

Weird fact 692, Oslo is the largest city in Europe[1].

Weird fact 693, If you pinned Norway to the world by a big pin
through Oslo, and swung the country around, it would reach down to
Rome. Something many Norwegians might like, since it would make the
country a lot warmer, although the fishermen would probably object.
Also the Italians, who would have to take up cave dwelling (living
in the roots of the mountains) or else move to Norway. (A vertical
ascent.)

Jonathan

[1] Geographically, although the population within the city boundary
consists mostly of trees[2]. If you stuck a big pin into London, tied
a fifty mile piece of string to it, with a pencil on the end, and used
that to draw a big circle[3], you could then define everything inside
the circle as "London" (this would be simpler than crinkly boundaries)
and have the biggest city in the world. Or did the USA already do
something like that in California?

[2] According to a Norwegian I knew once. But he had a strange sense
of humour, so it might not be true.

[3] It would be useful to acquire the skill of walking (and writing)
on water, too, before attempting this.

--
Use jlc instead of netspam to e-mail me, please.

Elizabeth Shack

unread,
Feb 2, 2003, 9:22:33 PM2/2/03
to
On Sun, 02 Feb 2003 20:53:42 +0100, Boudewijn Rempt <bo...@valdyas.org>
wrote:

>Tell me... When I was twelve years old I started developing the setting I'm
>still using. A bunch of planets in a completely different universe. A year
>or so later I cottoned on to the fact that I'd got a scale problem, maybe.
>So I focussed. Just one planet. About fifteen years ago I thought I'd
>better limit myself to a single continent. Ten years ago I'd started
>focussing on a single country. Almost doable. The single city was a smart
>move, too. But that lower-middle class square near Zhusre's bakery,
>at the foot of Heaven, that's my natural milieu...

The further I get from the three very small bits of the city that I
know, the fuzzier the geography gets. Including the bits of city in
between the three I know.

--
Elizabeth Shack eas...@earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~eashack/life.html
Busy. Got coffee?

Al Montestruc

unread,
Feb 2, 2003, 9:51:52 PM2/2/03
to
ada...@spamcop.net (Anna Feruglio Dal Dan) wrote in message news:<1fprnkw.tsny6k8f08hsN%ada...@spamcop.net>...

> James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
>
> > In article <1fpra4k.ujwr4i1ko9saoN%ada...@spamcop.net>,
> > Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
> > >
> > >Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
> > >constitute a threat too?
> > >
> > Lasers. Ship-borne lasers draw from a powerplant that fits
> > on a ship but groundbased lasers can drawn on the planetary electrical
> > grid. Put a 100 MW laser with targeting systems in each town, make the
> > power distribution EMP hardened and the invaders may have to smash
> > the assets of the entire planet to take it.

Problem. You have to shoot through the atmosphere, this will make
such lasers rather impractical and inaccurate due to diffraction and
aberrations in the atmosphere, that gets worse as you fire due to
heating the air. If you mount the lasers on balloons or enormous
towers to get them above most of the atmosphere, they make good and
easy targets.

Were I designing a planetary defense system I would not use such
lasers with the intent of actual physical damage of ships, but rather
to damage or blind sensors. Actual defenses would use mobile
launchers of nuclear missiles that will also have X-ray/gamma-ray
laser warheads pumped by nuclear explosives. That would allow you to
take potshots at ships in high earth orbit.

I think the advantages of "boomer" type subs for that type of work is
enormous as they can shoot and scoot and are invisible most of the
time.

That would be the last line of defense other than ground forces.
Orbital battle stations and a station on the moon, and ships.

> Great.
>
> Actually, I have a couple of plot points that require ground-based
> combat and I needed to wrap reality about them.

Easy, landing troops on a defended planet, even in moderately large
numbers is very possible with stealth technology especially if the
space fleets are slugging it out overhead, and the orbital battle
stations and you come in on a steep fast approach. That does require
top-notch heat shields.

Like I said read "Footfall" by Niven and Pournell.

Al Montestruc

unread,
Feb 2, 2003, 11:08:44 PM2/2/03
to
e.attentioncut...@libero.it (Emiliano Farinella) wrote in message news:<1fps0ny.1a6n5f54jhz8bN%e.attentioncut...@libero.it>...

> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>
> > In a stable orbit around a
> > planet, the impact of a weapon is unlikly to cause the spacecraft to
> > crash on the planet.
>
> If you hit a spacecraft in orbit, how long is the orbit _stable_?


By definition I was speaking of stable orbits. A stable orbit is one
that will not decay due to friction with the atmosphear. Example an
orbit where the minimum height is over about 200 nautical miles above
the ground will see no friction from air.

The kinetic energy of the ship will be on the order of half the mass
times the orbital velocity squared. If that orbit is circular around
the earth the energy required to to knock that orbit down to having a
perigee of ~90 nautical miles where it will eventually decay to a
crash will be approximately:

mass X g X Dh

A nautical mile is 6076 feet, Dh= 6076*(200-90)=668360 ft or 203716
meters. g is 9.81 m/s^2 so the energy to move the orbit of the ship
in a circular orbit at 200 nautical miles low enough to start to decay
is about 2.0 million Joules per kilogram of ship. That is a lot,
equal to and that is the absolute minimum and it has to hit from
EXACTLY the right directon.

So a 100 metric ton small ship about the size of the space shuttle in
a 200 natical mile orbit hit by a projectile from dead ahead would
have to be hit by a projectile with an amount of energy equal to 47.8
tons of TNT just right to drop it's orbit low enough for the orbit to
START to decay.

Showing the math: one kilo of TNT yields 4.18e+6 Joules of energy. The
kinetic energy required is 2 million Joules x 1000 kg/ton x 100
tons=2.0e+11 Joules

2.0e+11/4.18e+6=47,800

http://www.matter-antimatter.com/energy.htm

for the reference to Joules per ton tnt 1 metric ton tnt =1000kg.

So unless you hit it with that much energy or more in the right
direction, it will stay in orbit basically forever.

Al Montestruc

unread,
Feb 2, 2003, 11:13:33 PM2/2/03
to
Charlie Stross <cha...@antipope.org> wrote in message news:<slrnb3r3u6....@raq981.uk2net.com.antipope.org>...

> Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
> as <monte...@lycos.com> declared:
>
> > Last I recall the USA has 18 boomers,the UK a very few,
>
> Four SSBNs carrying Trident D-5's, 16 missiles per sub.

More than I thought. I think one could count on the UK having two out
at sea at any given time.


> You also missed out France -- four SSBNs carrying something at least
> as good as a late-model Poseidon system.

Another 2 to oppose a surprise attack.


>China has one SSBN, although
> whether it's any good is an open question.

It would probably be in port.

Total of 9US+ guess 3Russian +2UK +2French=16 boomers to oppose an
alien invasion.

Emiliano Farinella

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 1:34:47 AM2/3/03
to
Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:

>
> By definition I was speaking of stable orbits. A stable orbit is one
> that will not decay due to friction with the atmosphear.

[...]


> So unless you hit it with that much energy or more in the right
> direction, it will stay in orbit basically forever.

Thanks for explanations! :-)

Charlie Stross

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 6:16:06 AM2/3/03
to
Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <net...@softluck.plus.com> declared:

>>One of the easiest flaws to fall into when writing future SF is the
>>over-simplified planet with one crop, one predator that eats humans,
>>one industry, one big city, one language, and one weather pattern. In
>>reality, even a smallish country of five million people -- the size of
>>Scotland or Israel or Norway, say
>
> Eh? Since Norway is about a third again bigger than the whole of the
> UK, including it with Scotland as a "small country" could be
> considered by someone as a bit strange -- oh, you mean
> population? Then why are you talking about

Yup. For purposes of approximation they're both within an order of
magnitude. (Compare the surface area of Scotland with the surface
area of England ...)


-- Charlie

Manny Olds

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 7:16:14 AM2/3/03
to
Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:

> I think the advantages of "boomer" type subs for that type of work is
> enormous as they can shoot and scoot and are invisible most of the
> time.

That would depend on the availability of suitable oceans, though.

--
Manny Olds (old...@pobox.com) of Riverdale Park, Maryland, USA

"...When you hit your thumb with an eight-pound hammer it's nice to be
able to blaspheme. It takes a very special and strong-minded kind of
atheist to jump up and down...and shout..."Aaargh, primitive and outmoded
concept on a crutch!" -- Terry Pratchett

Manny Olds

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 7:18:55 AM2/3/03
to
Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
> ICBMs in silos would be spotted from space and taken out quickly, so
> those missiles would have to be used quickly or lost. If the aliens
> showed up right now in earth orbit and started shooting right off the
> bat, you can forget about those, and probably most boomers in port,
> say 1/2 the US fleet and probably one or two UK boats, and perhaps one
> or two Russian boats would survive. Most Russianm truck mounted
> mobile launchers would also be in good shape.

This is all presuming that the aliens knew what to look for. Why would
they necessarily focus on docked submarines or big slabs of concrete in
the middle of a cornfield before the first one shot at them?

--
Manny Olds (old...@pobox.com) of Riverdale Park, Maryland, USA

"There is no limit to how complicated things can get, on account of one
thing always leading to another." -- E.B. White

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 7:24:22 AM2/3/03
to
Manny Olds <old...@pobox.com> wrote:

> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
> > ICBMs in silos would be spotted from space and taken out quickly, so
> > those missiles would have to be used quickly or lost. If the aliens
> > showed up right now in earth orbit and started shooting right off the
> > bat, you can forget about those, and probably most boomers in port,
> > say 1/2 the US fleet and probably one or two UK boats, and perhaps one
> > or two Russian boats would survive. Most Russianm truck mounted
> > mobile launchers would also be in good shape.
>
> This is all presuming that the aliens knew what to look for. Why would
> they necessarily focus on docked submarines or big slabs of concrete in
> the middle of a cornfield before the first one shot at them?

Uh... no aliens here. It's two human societies at the same level of
technology, roughly. They have FTL but have to go up and down from orbit
with conventional means.

Blanche Nonken

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 9:10:29 AM2/3/03
to
Charlie Stross <cha...@antipope.org> wrote:

> One of the easiest flaws to fall into when writing future SF is the
> over-simplified planet with one crop, one predator that eats humans,
> one industry, one big city, one language, and one weather pattern. In
> reality, even a smallish country of five million people -- the size of
> Scotland or Israel or Norway, say -- is bloody complicated, supports big
> cities and weird sub-cultures, and has enough strange geography to spend
> a couple of years exploring.

That pretty much describes New Jersey. :-)

James Nicoll

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 9:50:17 AM2/3/03
to
In article <1fps0ny.1a6n5f54jhz8bN%e.attentioncut...@libero.it>,

Emiliano Farinella <e.attentioncut...@libero.it> wrote:
>Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>
>> In a stable orbit around a
>> planet, the impact of a weapon is unlikly to cause the spacecraft to
>> crash on the planet.
>
>If you hit a spacecraft in orbit, how long is the orbit _stable_?

Depends on the altitude. With Earth, LEO is good for years but
Geosynch longer than history to date.

It also depends on the planet being orbited. One of the odd
things about the Moon is that there is no such thing as a stable
orbit around it (The L points being special cases and in any case
three of them are not stable in the long run). A hypothetical lumpy
habitable moon of a gas giant might also have a similar characteristic
and so require frequent corrections to avoid a lithobraking phase.
Nailing the engines would be fairly annoying for any persons in orbit
uncomfortable with being turned into superheated plasma on impact.

James Nicoll

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 9:56:17 AM2/3/03
to
In article <1fpt3tr.1x2jl8i2xy76qN%ada...@spamcop.net>,

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
>Manny Olds <old...@pobox.com> wrote:
>
>> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>> > ICBMs in silos would be spotted from space and taken out quickly, so
>> > those missiles would have to be used quickly or lost. If the aliens
>> > showed up right now in earth orbit and started shooting right off the
>> > bat, you can forget about those, and probably most boomers in port,
>> > say 1/2 the US fleet and probably one or two UK boats, and perhaps one
>> > or two Russian boats would survive. Most Russianm truck mounted
>> > mobile launchers would also be in good shape.
>>
>> This is all presuming that the aliens knew what to look for. Why would
>> they necessarily focus on docked submarines or big slabs of concrete in
>> the middle of a cornfield before the first one shot at them?
>
>Uh... no aliens here. It's two human societies at the same level of
>technology, roughly. They have FTL but have to go up and down from orbit
>with conventional means.
>
Rockets?

If you watch anime one of the recurring images is soldiers dropped
on lines from helicopters or other VTOL aircraft. I like the image of
dropping stuff from orbit on very long cables (like a portable beanstalk):
as the cargo goes down, the ship goes up. Cable would likely mass too
much to make this practical, though.

If the target has an atmosphere, down is straight-forward thanks
to aerobraking but I could see situations like Operation Market Garden
where "paratroops" find themselves trapped on the surface without the
promised shuttles to return them to orbit.

Charlie Stross

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 10:16:55 AM2/3/03
to
Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <jdni...@panix.com> declared:

> Rockets?
>
> If you watch anime one of the recurring images is soldiers dropped
> on lines from helicopters or other VTOL aircraft. I like the image of
> dropping stuff from orbit on very long cables (like a portable beanstalk):
> as the cargo goes down, the ship goes up. Cable would likely mass too
> much to make this practical, though.
>
> If the target has an atmosphere, down is straight-forward thanks
> to aerobraking but I could see situations like Operation Market Garden
> where "paratroops" find themselves trapped on the surface without the
> promised shuttles to return them to orbit.

Hmm. If you want to move a lot of mass without being vulnerable to
ground fire, and you're not too worried about subjecting your passengers
to loadings up to 10-15 gees, how about putting some pinwheels into a
Molniya orbit? (Pinwheel: a tether a thousand or so kilometres long,
revolving around a hub, dipping down into the atmosphere, rotating so that
although the hub is in orbit the tip is moving backwards relative to
the orbital path when at its closest approach to the ground. At perigee
it's about thirty kilometres up and moving at mach two or thereabout;
at apogee an object hooked onto the top of the tether will be moving at
over orbital velocity. Molniya orbit: a highly eccentric eliptical
orbit that spends most of its time a long way away -- typically out
to a hundred thousand kilometres -- but comes very much closer to the
planetary surface at perigee.)

The concept gives you a *big* ground/orbit lift capability that
is available for a window of maybe ten minutes once every two or
three days. Your shuttles only have to crank up to mach two at high
stratospheric altitude then clamp onto the wire and hold tight in order
to make orbit. It spends most of its time too far away to take pot-shots
at from the ground.

For added bonus points, make the tether electrodynamic -- you mount
solar panels at the hub, run a current through it, and use its motion
through the planet's magnetic field to change orbital inclination and
speed (and to make up for drag from the atmosphere every time the tip
dips in).

Oh, and you can use it as God's own intercontinental balistic trebuchet.


-- Charlie

James Nicoll

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Feb 3, 2003, 10:58:55 AM2/3/03
to
In article <c58ec7cf.03020...@posting.google.com>,

Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>
>Were I designing a planetary defense system I would not use such
>lasers with the intent of actual physical damage of ships, but rather
>to damage or blind sensors.

The story I have vaguely based on _The Wreck of the Medusa_ has
something like that, but it's part one of a two-pronged attack. The
ship is crossing a system known to be mined during the recent war
between Europe and America (1). The Old Regime captain has on the
advice of his political advisor decided to use this system because
it's marginally more direct than the suggested route (2) and they
dearly want to surprise some of the New Regime minions they think
may be at the destination (Actually occupied by the other side but
being handed back because it will make the Old Regime feel better
about itself and the place is not in any way stragetegic).

During the war, capturing ships was considered useful so
the defense mines wait until the ship has deployed its engine,
stuck its reactor out on a boom and begun to accelerate (heat
management being a problem in warp, and warp volume usually being
a sphere, you can't just warp out without reeling stuff in and
cooling down, unless you drop the stuff on cables and booms),
blind it/heat it with powerful lasers and then launch boarding
robots.

The ship does manage a skink manuever, ends up heading to
the wrong system but not in time to avoid visitors.


1: This would be the 'USA lasts until 4000 AD timeline, staying as true
to its roots as Rome did to its' TL.

2: In an attempt to emulate aspects of 2300 AD I liked, I ended up with
a system where the safest routes with the longest legs are from massive
star to massive star because it's easier to hit their interaction cross
section with the equipment available.

David J. Starr

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 12:57:40 PM2/3/03
to
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan wrote:
>

>
> Right now I'm musing on how war around a planet is conducted in my
> universe, and I was wondering how best (or not so well, it's enought
> that it works) to shoot down a ship in orbit. Do you effectively own a
> planet after you've managed to secure that nobody else can orbit it (and
> can you do it?) or do you still have to fear from below?
>
> --

Ships in orbit are moving at some 18,000 mph. This is a fantastic
speed, 20 times the speed of sound, 10 times faster than a bullet, 50
times faster than a jet aircraft. At this speed collision with anything
releases enough energy to blow the ship to bits. It doesn't take much
of a rocket to toss something straight up 200 miles or so. Current
SAM's like Patriot can reach up 20 miles, I would find a growth version
with 200 mile altitude that fits on a truck perfectly plausible. USAF
had one that was small enough to fit onto a fighter. However I would
had trouble believing in a model small enough to backpack a la Stinger.
Once up there, the warhead terminal guidance system need merely steer
itself directly into the path of the orbiting spacecraft for a impact
kill. The warhead has sensors (IR or radar) a microprocessor, and some
attitude thrusters. It locks onto the target and uses the thrusters to
push itself into a direct hit. No explosives are required, the energy
released when the 18000 mph spacecraft smashes into a warhead the size
and weight of a brick will do the job nicely.
What about the "Influence of Spacepower on History"? Is control of
space above the planet analogous to control of the sea today? Depends
upon the needs of your story. Certainly command of space gives control
of interstellar/planetary commerce, and a good position from which to
bombard the planet. Landing troops is dicier, more like paratroops than
D-day.
Or, you could say that planetary resources of food, ammunition,
manpower, industrial base are so much greater than the power of the
space fleet as to be overwhelming. Anti ballistic missile defenses
would work as well against orbital bombardment as against ICBMs. With
sufficiently powerful nuclear warheads, even large meteors could be
vaporized. And you could say that interstellar commerce trades only in
a tiny volume of non-essential luxury goods.

--
David J. Starr dst...@TheWorld.com

Neil Barnes

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 2:08:08 PM2/3/03
to
jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote in
news:b1lvuh$4jo$1...@panix2.panix.com:


> If the target has an atmosphere, down is straight-forward
> thanks
> to aerobraking but I could see situations like Operation
> Market Garden where "paratroops" find themselves trapped on
> the surface without the promised shuttles to return them to
> orbit.

Recent events suggest that down is not so quite straightforward
as it might seem. You have to assume that the bad guys have
seriously hardened landers - and remember that the landers have
to carry all the fuel they need *down* as well as up.

--
I watched Apollo in 1969 and I watched Columbia in 1981. In 2001
I stood under a Saturn V section and wept.
Does *no-one* still have the dream?
Neil


Neil Barnes

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 2:17:25 PM2/3/03
to
"David J. Starr" <dst...@theworld.com> wrote in


> What about the "Influence of Spacepower on History"? Is
> control of
> space above the planet analogous to control of the sea today?

One thing thing to recall is that the more stuff you destroy in
low earth orbit, the more junk you have floating around to get in
the way of both groups' use of it.

Charlie Stross

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 3:24:23 PM2/3/03
to
Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <nailed_...@hotmail.com> declared:

> Recent events suggest that down is not so quite straightforward
> as it might seem. You have to assume that the bad guys have
> seriously hardened landers - and remember that the landers have
> to carry all the fuel they need *down* as well as up.

At risk of sounding snide, the Columbia disaster is what you get when
you stick wings, wheels, air brakes, ailerons, etcetera on a space ship.
(Anyone else remember the supersonic flying boat? That suffered from the
same neither fish-nor-fowl engineering problem -- too many design
compromises to be really good as either a boat or a supersonic jet
fighter.)

At orbital velocity around a terrestrial planet, the main headache is
kinetic energy. A one kilogram lump in orbit has about the same energy
as sevel kilograms of TNT, and to get it down to the ground safely
you've got to bleed that off.

The Vostok craft the Russians started out with had an interesting
approach to heat shielding; a disk of old, seasoned, *very* solid oak,
four inches thick, held together with wooden pins (steel would have
conducted heat through it). Believe it or not, this actually worked --
the shield charred badly and burned down to half its original thickness,
but oak is bloody dense stuff. The American capsules (and Soyuz) don't
use wood; they use a thick epoxy resin that vapourises slowly, carrying
the heat away with it.

Cutting holes in the head shield (for wheels and flaps and landing gear)
is a *bad* idea. So is trying to make it reusable by replacing a simple
slab of J. Random Disposable Cushion with thirty-two thousand fragile
custom-shaped ceramic tiles.

To reiterate: getting stuff down from orbit is basically a solved problem,
and not a complicated one. The shuttle is just designed to do it in the
most improbable, complex, fragile, and fallible manner imaginable.

Seems to me that if you want wings, lowering them down a pinwheel or
beanstalk from orbit solves most of the thermal headaches by ensuring
that it only hits atmosphere when it's travelling much, much slower
than orbital velocity. Otherwise, just use a capsule with an ablative
hull and steerable parachutes for the final approach and landing.

-- Charlie

Jonathan L Cunningham

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 4:46:22 PM2/3/03
to

Umm. Ok, but an order of magnitude (x10) is a big-ish number. And a
five second web search doesn't turn up the area of Scotland v.
England[1] (and Wales probably has a non-zero area, which helps my
argument).

So I'll let you off if you provide me with some free Linux
consultancy.

After you've finished your gazillion novels-in-progress (I'm not
unreasonable).

Hmmm. Vatican 0.2 sq. miles. Former Soviet Union 8,600,000 (ish).
That's seven and a half orders of magnitude.

I still think 10 is a big number. I reckon 2.718 is a more reasonable
max range, but I guess your Norway/Scotland ratio does fit inside
that too.

Jonathan

[1] (I'm a half-breed: half Lancashire[3], half Scottish[2][4], so
there are no perjorative connotations in this comparison.)

[2] Despite being born in SE england, surrounded by the descendants
of Saxons (and retired-to-the-coast Londoners).

[3] I note from another of your posts that you are from Yorkshire,
despite being now in Scotland, unless I misremember. This makes
us hereditary enemies, of course.

[4] Via the Caribbean.

James Nicoll

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 4:50:16 PM2/3/03
to
In article <b1memo$14v7t1$1...@ID-123172.news.dfncis.de>,

Neil Barnes <nailed_...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote in
>news:b1lvuh$4jo$1...@panix2.panix.com:
>
>> If the target has an atmosphere, down is straight-forward
>> thanks
>> to aerobraking but I could see situations like Operation
>> Market Garden where "paratroops" find themselves trapped on
>> the surface without the promised shuttles to return them to
>> orbit.
>
>Recent events suggest that down is not so quite straightforward
>as it might seem. You have to assume that the bad guys have
>seriously hardened landers - and remember that the landers have
>to carry all the fuel they need *down* as well as up.

Notice how no capsules have ever burned up on entry? With
the shuttle, you have all kinds of weak spots like the wheel wells.
Dumbtech, like a capsule with a thick slab of disposable heatshield
(cunning ceramics or perhaps just hardwood. Teak would do well) won't
get you back up but it is more robust on the way down.

Besides, that fuel for taking off again could be replaced with
mutitions. It's not like they will need the fuel if they lose and needing
to win to go home may give the droptroops extra incentive (Or encourage
them to surrender once they are down, depends).

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 4:52:56 PM2/3/03
to
Jonathan L Cunningham <net...@softluck.plus.com> wrote:

> [1] (I'm a half-breed: half Lancashire[3], half Scottish[2][4], so
> there are no perjorative connotations in this comparison.)


> [4] Via the Caribbean.

Sulk. I feel so boringly monoethnical.

Boudewijn Rempt

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 5:02:00 PM2/3/03
to
Anna Feruglio Dal Dan wrote:

> Jonathan L Cunningham <net...@softluck.plus.com> wrote:
>
>> [1] (I'm a half-breed: half Lancashire[3], half Scottish[2][4], so
>> there are no perjorative connotations in this comparison.)
>
>
>> [4] Via the Caribbean.
>
> Sulk. I feel so boringly monoethnical.
>

But you've got lots of tales about the interesting parts of Italy. I mean,
I _knew_ old women carried loads bigger than the tea porters that travel
between Tibet and Sichuan, but only when you mentioned it I was able
to solve the logistics problems of the Barushlani army. Poor Yidenir, she's
going to feel as if she were back at the farm again. And not just because
she's surrounded by mercenary soldiers with bad intentions.
--
Boudewijn Rempt | http://www.valdyas.org

Al Montestruc

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Feb 3, 2003, 7:26:18 PM2/3/03
to
Manny Olds <old...@pobox.com> wrote in message news:<b1lmnf$q05$3...@news1.radix.net>...

> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
> > ICBMs in silos would be spotted from space and taken out quickly, so
> > those missiles would have to be used quickly or lost. If the aliens
> > showed up right now in earth orbit and started shooting right off the
> > bat, you can forget about those, and probably most boomers in port,
> > say 1/2 the US fleet and probably one or two UK boats, and perhaps one
> > or two Russian boats would survive. Most Russianm truck mounted
> > mobile launchers would also be in good shape.
>
> This is all presuming that the aliens knew what to look for. Why would
> they necessarily focus on docked submarines or big slabs of concrete in
> the middle of a cornfield before the first one shot at them?

Either because they were smart and sneaky scouted first, and got some
a statistically significant number of prisoners (minimum 3, ten is a
better number) from each of the USA and Industrialized Europe and
Japan, and learned languages and questioned them for as much info as
they could get, then had intel officers listen to our news, PBS and
commercial broadcasts for a year or two, or because they have seen and
possibly got shot at by such before on other worlds including maybe
their own.

Note that it is very possible to build a nuclear powered single stage
to orbit spacecraft using nuclear pulse drives, and for them to get
hear we pretty much have to assume they have at least that level of
technology. So the sneaky scout mission profile would be to insert
using as much stealth as possible in a steep re-entry trajectory over
unraveled stretches of ocean like the South Indian Ocean or the North
Pacific. From their you fly as a (nuclear powered) stealth type
aircraft at low altitude to a target area, land and kidnap some
locals, lift off and land again in the middle of the ocean in a radar
quiet area, load up on reaction mass, then take off on a short fast
high gee burn that gets them on a trajectory to rendezvous with a pick
up ship.

Al Montestruc

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Feb 3, 2003, 7:27:43 PM2/3/03
to
JXStern <JXSternC...@gte.net> wrote in message news:<50rq3v463u7kn2ca9...@4ax.com>...

> On Sun, 2 Feb 2003 13:47:39 +0100, ada...@spamcop.net (Anna Feruglio
> Dal Dan) wrote:
> >Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
> >constitute a threat too?
>
> In Niven's Footfall there are ground-based particle-beam weapons.
>
> If one wants to launch warheads into orbit, boosting them from
> ground-based mass drivers might be a better start than launching from
> a sub (as in Niven's Ringworld, except those were ground-based (well,
> ring-based) de-cellerators!).


Big fat clumsy target.

Sub can shoot 'n scoot.
>
> Along the "gravel" route, I've wondered about launching large nets of
> steel or hi-tech cable -- harder to see, more likely to impact, ...
> perhaps. Have to talk to some experts on the science.
>
> J.

Andrew Dennis

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 10:58:22 PM2/3/03
to
Al Montestruc wrote:

> From their you fly as a (nuclear powered) stealth type
> aircraft at low altitude to a target area, land and kidnap some
> locals, lift off and land again in the middle of the ocean in a radar
> quiet area, load up on reaction mass, then take off on a short fast
> high gee burn that gets them on a trajectory to rendezvous with a pick
> up ship.

The trouble with this is that on the evidence the aliens seem to pick their
kidnappees from among those elements of the population least likely to know
about the deployment of large weapon systems.

And if Whitley Strieber is to be believed, they believe human knowledge can
be downloaded through the rectum.

"Damn' near killed 'um."


--

Andrew Dennis

"A maze of twisty little laws, all different."

Destructive Test

unread,
Feb 3, 2003, 9:02:58 PM2/3/03
to
In <slrnb3qscb....@raq981.uk2net.com.antipope.org> it was written:

>Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
>as <dd...@daviddfriedman.com> declared:
>
>>> A planet is a very mind-bogglingly big place,
>>> with lots of hidey-holes for nasty surprises.
>>
>> A fact that a lot of sf seems to miss.
>
>Tell me about it.
>
>(A fun line from the novel-due-to-be-handed-in-next-month: "whenever
>I hear about a planet with just one government I start asking about
>mass graves and war crimes tribunals. Luckily planetary governments are
>rare." From a protagonist who, at about 150 years old, has developed
>a violent aversion to museums because she's lived through too many of
>the kind of events they catalogue.)

WISP has... (shuffle, shuffle... "where did I put that note? Oh
yeah...") eighteen inhabited planets, of which only one is "unified."
Or at least, HAD eighteen inhabited planets; a few of them dropped out
of contact some time ago. As for that "unified" planet, mass graves
would be an understatement and war crimes tribunals are... not
relevant.

>One of the easiest flaws to fall into when writing future SF is the
>over-simplified planet with one crop, one predator that eats humans,
>one industry, one big city, one language, and one weather pattern. In
>reality, even a smallish country of five million people -- the size of

>Scotland or Israel or Norway, say -- is bloody complicated, supports big
>cities and weird sub-cultures, and has enough strange geography to spend
>a couple of years exploring.

Well said.

On the other hand, if you've got a colony world settled X years ago by
a single culture, how much variation is there going to be in the
society? How about if said world gets cut off and regresses but not so
far as to lose global communications? (Which, admittedly, is one of the
issues I'm looking at in developing some of the background for the
WISP--a "regressed" colony where global communications and travel are
expensive, but possible.)

Wilson Heydt

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Feb 4, 2003, 12:19:14 PM2/4/03
to
In article <1fpqvho.1nkwz4gse69dsN%ada...@spamcop.net>,

Anna Feruglio Dal Dan <ada...@spamcop.net> wrote:
>New thread because I don't want the original one to go off on a writerly
>tangent, it doesn't seem right.
>
>Warrick M. Locke <warl...@mesh.net> wrote:
>
>> On Sat, 01 Feb 2003 16:32:39 -0600, John F. Eldredge <jo...@jfeldredge.com>
>> wrote:
>> [snip]

>
>Right now I'm musing on how war around a planet is conducted in my
>universe, and I was wondering how best (or not so well, it's enought
>that it works) to shoot down a ship in orbit. Do you effectively own a
>planet after you've managed to secure that nobody else can orbit it (and
>can you do it?) or do you still have to fear from below?

Depends... Depends on what sort of space drive you use. If enemies
can launch missiles that can hit the planet fromout of reach of the
planetary defenses that comein fast enough, kinetic kill could
destroy the entire ecosystem. It also depends on whether on not you
consider the power to destroy something a form of control over it.

--
Hal Heydt
Albany, CA

My dime, my opinions.

Wilson Heydt

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Feb 4, 2003, 12:40:01 PM2/4/03
to
In article <b1jmcf$3dl$1...@panix1.panix.com>,
James Nicoll <jdni...@panix.com> wrote:
> There's also the method used in _A Small Colonial War_. The
>Sud Afrikans, confronted with a fleet of ships in orbit that outguns
>all of the local factions together, humbly attempt to make the commanding
>officer of the mission happy by supplying him with undocumented crates
>of gold, to ease his retirement. Unfortunately for him, the dense material
>in the crate is actually either U235 or Pu-mumble with some plastic
>explosives and a timer.

Pu-2398, IIRC.

Wilson Heydt

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Feb 4, 2003, 1:04:41 PM2/4/03
to
In article <Xns9316AB08C56...@209.98.13.60>,
Dan Goodman <dsg...@visi.com> wrote:
>e.attentioncut...@libero.it (Emiliano Farinella) wrote in
>news:1fps0ny.1a6n5f54jhz8bN%e.attentioncut...@libero.it:

>
>> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>>
>>> In a stable orbit around a
>>> planet, the impact of a weapon is unlikly to cause the spacecraft to
>>> crash on the planet.
>>
>> If you hit a spacecraft in orbit, how long is the orbit _stable_?
>
>Depends what you hit it with. If you use a weapon which merely kills off
>everyone inside, then it'll be as stable as if nothing had happened.
>However, staying in that orbit might require adjustments which the crew
>(being dead) is no longer able to make.

It also depends on how you define 'stable'. Most low orbits will
decay in anywhere from months to decades. Of the early
satellite launches, Vanguard I is probably the only one still up
there.

Neil Barnes

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Feb 4, 2003, 1:32:02 PM2/4/03
to
jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote in
news:b1mo6o$107$1...@panix1.panix.com:

> In article <b1memo$14v7t1$1...@ID-123172.news.dfncis.de>,
> Neil Barnes <nailed_...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>>jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote in
>>news:b1lvuh$4jo$1...@panix2.panix.com:
>>
>>> If the target has an atmosphere, down is
>>> straight-forward thanks
>>> to aerobraking but I could see situations like Operation
>>> Market Garden where "paratroops" find themselves trapped on
>>> the surface without the promised shuttles to return them to
>>> orbit.
>>
>>Recent events suggest that down is not so quite
>>straightforward as it might seem. You have to assume that the
>>bad guys have seriously hardened landers - and remember that
>>the landers have to carry all the fuel they need *down* as
>>well as up.
>
> Notice how no capsules have ever burned up on entry? With
> the shuttle, you have all kinds of weak spots like the wheel
> wells. Dumbtech, like a capsule with a thick slab of
> disposable heatshield (cunning ceramics or perhaps just
> hardwood. Teak would do well) won't get you back up but it is
> more robust on the way down.

Oh, indeed. I believe James pointed out that the Russians are
fond of bloody great chunks of old oak...

>
> Besides, that fuel for taking off again could be replaced
> with
> mutitions. It's not like they will need the fuel if they lose
> and needing to win to go home may give the droptroops extra
> incentive (Or encourage them to surrender once they are down,
> depends).

Hmmm... You'd have to be pretty motivated - and confident - to go
in a one way drop ship when you can't make a 'tactical advance to
the rear to previously prepared positions'. Or as Sir Robin might
have phrased it: Run away! Very very quickly!

James Nicoll

unread,
Feb 4, 2003, 1:49:21 PM2/4/03
to
In article <b1p0v1$154178$1...@ID-123172.news.dfncis.de>,

Charlie Stross.

>>
>> Besides, that fuel for taking off again could be replaced
>> with
>> mutitions. It's not like they will need the fuel if they lose
>> and needing to win to go home may give the droptroops extra
>> incentive (Or encourage them to surrender once they are down,
>> depends).
>
>Hmmm... You'd have to be pretty motivated - and confident - to go
>in a one way drop ship when you can't make a 'tactical advance to
>the rear to previously prepared positions'. Or as Sir Robin might
>have phrased it: Run away! Very very quickly!

Paratroops don't have, as far as I know, any way of bugging
out if the drop goes horribly horribly wrong.

Neil Barnes

unread,
Feb 4, 2003, 2:08:16 PM2/4/03
to
jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote in
news:b1p1vh$aa1$1...@panix3.panix.com:

> In article <b1p0v1$154178$1...@ID-123172.news.dfncis.de>,
> Neil Barnes <nailed_...@hotmail.com> wrote:

>>Oh, indeed. I believe James pointed out that the Russians are
>>fond of bloody great chunks of old oak...
>
> Charlie Stross.

Oops! Sorry both!


>>Hmmm... You'd have to be pretty motivated - and confident - to
>>go in a one way drop ship when you can't make a 'tactical
>>advance to the rear to previously prepared positions'. Or as
>>Sir Robin might have phrased it: Run away! Very very quickly!
>
> Paratroops don't have, as far as I know, any way of
> bugging
> out if the drop goes horribly horribly wrong.

I considered paratroops. But I think there that there is at least
the thought that one could - with sufficient determination - walk
home. Though I will be the first to admit that I know nothing
about paratroop tactics, dropping behind enemy lines seems more
likely than dropping into the middle of an encirclement.

Wilson Heydt

unread,
Feb 4, 2003, 1:45:49 PM2/4/03
to

Make that Pu-239. (Sorry.)

Charlie Stross

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Feb 4, 2003, 2:33:48 PM2/4/03
to
Stoned koala bears drooled eucalyptus spittle in awe
as <whh...@kithrup.com> declared:

>>... either U235 or Pu-mumble with some plastic

>>explosives and a timer.
>
> Pu-2398, IIRC.

Would Pu-2398 *need* a timer? :)


-- Charlie

Brian M. Scott

unread,
Feb 4, 2003, 2:49:17 PM2/4/03
to

>Pu-2398, IIRC.

Heavy, man!

Brian

Warrick M. Locke

unread,
Feb 4, 2003, 10:09:11 PM2/4/03
to

I want to see the guy who can wind it fast enough...

Regards,
Ric

Dan Goodman

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Feb 5, 2003, 12:24:27 AM2/5/03
to
Destructive Test <gre...@flex.com> wrote in
news:slrnb3u7qg....@glasseye.bag.plethora.net:

> On the other hand, if you've got a colony world settled X years ago by
> a single culture, how much variation is there going to be in the
> society?

A single culture, or a single society? There are a number of multi-
cultural societies -- almost all the societies in Western Europe, to begin
with. (Even disregarding immigration during the past two or three
centuries.)

For some idea how much variation there can be, see: Vogt, Evon Zartman
[1918-] and Ethel M. Albert, editors. People of Rimrock; a study of values
in five cultures.Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1966.

American anthropologists reporting on the Four Corners area of New Mexico.
Note that their "five cultures" included two groups which were English-
speaking and which most anthropologists today would probably place in the
same culture as these anthropologists: "Texans" (some of them from
Oklahoma) and Mormons.

David Friedman

unread,
Feb 5, 2003, 1:06:03 AM2/5/03
to
In article <Xns9318EE535E6...@209.98.13.60>,
Dan Goodman <dsg...@visi.com> wrote:

> American anthropologists reporting on the Four Corners area of New Mexico.
> Note that their "five cultures" included two groups which were English-
> speaking and which most anthropologists today would probably place in the
> same culture as these anthropologists: "Texans" (some of them from
> Oklahoma) and Mormons.

Don't you mean "Oklahomans, some of them from Baja Oklahoma, and
Mormons?"

--
www.daviddfriedman.com

Al Montestruc

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Feb 5, 2003, 2:01:31 AM2/5/03
to
Manny Olds <old...@pobox.com> wrote in message news:<b1lmie$q05$2...@news1.radix.net>...
> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>
> > I think the advantages of "boomer" type subs for that type of work is
> > enormous as they can shoot and scoot and are invisible most of the
> > time.
>
> That would depend on the availability of suitable oceans, though.

Sure, though I did take it that the planet was habitable, and that
makes oceans a near sure thing with any biology we are familier with.
Without water oceans the termperature of the earth would IIUC not be
stable enough to support life, likewise we would never have gotten the
O2 in huge quantity in our atmosphear.

Destructive Test

unread,
Feb 5, 2003, 10:29:53 AM2/5/03
to
In article <Xns9318EE535E6...@209.98.13.60>, Dan Goodman wrote:
> Destructive Test <gre...@flex.com> wrote in
> news:slrnb3u7qg....@glasseye.bag.plethora.net:
>> On the other hand, if you've got a colony world settled X years ago by
>> a single culture, how much variation is there going to be in the
>> society?
>
> A single culture, or a single society?
[...]

> American anthropologists reporting on the Four Corners area of New Mexico.
> Note that their "five cultures" included two groups which were English-
> speaking and which most anthropologists today would probably place in the
> same culture as these anthropologists: "Texans" (some of them from
> Oklahoma) and Mormons.

Hmm. It would have started as a mono-cultural society, though there was
some divergence (as per Mormon vs. "Texan") before things fell apart.
And there was definitely a haves vs. have-nots split before they all
became have-nots. Or to be more precise, an enhanced vs. unenhanced
split. Though the unenhanced were a small (5%?) minority. (And the
enhanced burned out their enhancements when the colony was cut off.)

Still, it was single society when it got cut off, and they did manage
to retain global communications within that.

Al Montestruc

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Feb 5, 2003, 6:22:39 PM2/5/03
to
JXStern <JXSternC...@gte.net> wrote in message news:<50rq3v463u7kn2ca9...@4ax.com>...
> On Sun, 2 Feb 2003 13:47:39 +0100, ada...@spamcop.net (Anna Feruglio
> Dal Dan) wrote:
> >Yes, subs I had thought about. Do you think anything on land can
> >constitute a threat too?
>
> In Niven's Footfall there are ground-based particle-beam weapons.

Page number??

I recall LASERS used by the invaders from the ground, no PBW. No
earth PBW that I recall.


>
> If one wants to launch warheads into orbit, boosting them from
> ground-based mass drivers might be a better start than launching from
> a sub (as in Niven's Ringworld, except those were ground-based (well,
> ring-based) de-cellerators!).

Can you say big fat expensive target for an asteroid strike??


>
> Along the "gravel" route, I've wondered about launching large nets of
> steel or hi-tech cable -- harder to see, more likely to impact, ...

No. At the level of kinetic energy of impact ANYTHING will turn to
plasma. All that matters is it will stay solid, as a liquid will
vaporize and a vapor will disburse.

If possible you want something with a small amount of delta vee, and a
computer to guide it. Even a 1 to 10 m/s delta-vee with a good sensor
and guidance system can make a big difference. Next to that cheap is
the criteria to use.

Oh and you want it to be hard to detect, so no shiny stuff and steel
is a bad idea as they might be able to detect it magnetically.

Al Montestruc

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Feb 7, 2003, 1:32:37 PM2/7/03
to
jdni...@panix.com (James Nicoll) wrote in message news:<b1p1vh$aa1$1...@panix3.panix.com>...

If your mission is take and hold well and good, if it is recon and
return with live prisoners ect, not good. You need the ability to
lift off and get to orbit. That pretty much rules out the sort of
heat shield you were discussing unless one makes that a throw away
part of the ship. Which might not be a bad idea come to think of it.

In any case the only practical way to design a return to orbit boat is
a nuclear powered one that uses water for reaction mass IMHO.

James Nicoll

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Feb 7, 2003, 1:56:09 PM2/7/03
to
In article <c58ec7cf.03020...@posting.google.com>,

Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
>
>In any case the only practical way to design a return to orbit boat is
>a nuclear powered one that uses water for reaction mass IMHO.

Ah, yes. The Al Montestruc One True Way model.

One could also use:

1: Temporary beanstalk from ship.

2: Orbiting pinwheels that dip down into the atmosphere.

3: Laser-launcher (Note: using the planetary grid requires controlling it)
evaporating reaction mass.

4: Nuclear proplusion unit, single pulse (You emplace the nuke and ride
the debris plume into orbit, which will require something more robust
than a human).

5: N60 chemical rocket, using microwave energy beamed down from the ship
to make N60 in situ.

And that's off the top of my head. I am sure I could think of
more.

al montestruc

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Feb 8, 2003, 1:47:46 AM2/8/03
to

"James Nicoll" <jdni...@panix.com> wrote in message
news:b20vg9$kai$1...@panix2.panix.com...

> In article <c58ec7cf.03020...@posting.google.com>,
> Al Montestruc <monte...@lycos.com> wrote:
> >
> >In any case the only practical way to design a return to orbit boat is
> >a nuclear powered one that uses water for reaction mass IMHO.
>
> Ah, yes. The Al Montestruc One True Way model.


The patent pending James Nicoll drop the context post.

The context dropped was that this was supposed to be discussing a land and
return during war, or before a war has started when one does not want the
other side to know that the RECON mission is dropped. Also where the other
side is in possession of the earthlike planet and has at LEAST a late 20th
century military technology, and the will to use nuclear weapons.

>
> One could also use:
>
> 1: Temporary beanstalk from ship.

This requires a freaking huge ship and beanstalk will show up on radar like
a sore thumb and visible to eyeball mark 1, also make beautiful target for
anything you han heave at it. Also real expensive for a recon mission.
Also will mean recon unit will be seen coming.


> 2: Orbiting pinwheels that dip down into the atmosphere.

Ditto remark for # 1

> 3: Laser-launcher (Note: using the planetary grid requires controlling it)
> evaporating reaction mass.

And the natives allow you to tie into their power grid without issue and
forget you were ever there, yeah right.


>
> 4: Nuclear proplusion unit, single pulse (You emplace the nuke and ride
> the debris plume into orbit, which will require something more robust
> than a human).

Which is wat I was discussing, and those can and will use reaction mass when
lifing off a planet like