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August 10, 2011
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Tsiolkovsky by SMPritchard Tsiolkovsky by SMPritchard
The Tsiolkovsky, the first manned interstellar spacecraft ever built, accelerates away from the Solar System with a crew of 100 frozen colonists. Using pulsed fusion propulsion, it powers it's way up to nearly 20% the speed of light. At such tremendous speeds, the diffuse gas and dust of the interstellar medium becomes a hail of deadly projectiles. To protect the the ship from the occasional collision with dust grains, a massive triple-layer impact shield absorbs the majority of impacts. By the time the Tsiolkovsky reaches it's target, the shield will be blasted and scarred with impact craters and radiation damage.

After it has achieved coasting velocity, the main engine is jettisoned. Once it is time to decelerate, a magnetic sail, a loop of superconducting wire many hundreds of kilometers wide is deployed, acting as a parachute by braking against it's destination's stellar wind. A smaller fusion-pulse engine then slows it into a capture orbit.
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Locurus Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014
I wouldn't have taken the sails.

One, they're hilariously underpowered. You'll only be close to your target sun for so long, and when you're whizzing by at 0.2c, you'll need all the time you can get to brake. There's a big chance your solar sail is so underpowered you'll only have slowed down an insignificant portion once you've passed that star.

Second, a solar sail is extremely massive. While your fusion engine will have a thrust-to-mass of a few hundreds up into the thousands, you'll be lucky to design a solar sail that you can get a ratio of 0.005 out of. For the mass of a solar sail large enough to slow a craft from 0.2 c to a stellar orbit in one pass, you could easily enough fit a bigger engine for lower travel times, a refinery to get your helium-3 or tritium for the return flight, and a Martini bar.
SMPritchard Featured By Owner Jul 16, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
The Tsiolkovsky does not have a solar sail.
Locurus Featured By Owner Jul 17, 2014
Magnetic sail. I got my terms mixed up. Anyhow, they have similar thrust-to-weight ratios and both suffer from loss of efficiency the further you get from a star.

I've got no clue what effects a speed of 0.2 c has on the power of a magnetic sail, or whether the relative speeds of the incoming particles are even beneficial, but I'd still go for my second fusion engine.
Robby-Robert Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2014
I think once the ship has attained terminal velocity, jettisoning the engines would be pointless, other than easing the deceleration process into the target solar system. If someone else made this point, sorry, I got tired of reading!
Beautiful, conjectural image! Love the design, and the rendering is awesome. Most cgi images seem to be nothing more than computer cartoons, but this is cinema quality!
minus269 Featured By Owner Jul 30, 2013
Very nice work - worth appreciating both for the quality of the images and the creativity involved in the model making. My quibbles are the same I tend to have around all space colonization concepts: population size and technology sustainability at the destination. 100 is pretty small. By the time you assume losses associated with cryo, accumulated radiation damage, etc., perhaps you have 75 colonists available to reproduce...? Consider the 50/500 rule re: genetic viability of a population. With embryos and other approached, keep in mind that the tech at the end if the trip is limited to what the ship can carry and the crew can maintain. Highly likely to be a pretty harsh life for the first generations and a comparatively low-tech society for a long time.
GhostBirdofPrey Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013
and just why would you want to lose the main drive?
bobafetthotmail Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013
mainly because the main drive is too wimpy to carry enough fuel to be used to decelerate as well and is worthless without fuel. Carrying a refinery to generate fuel on destination is too heavy and unreliable as well as we aren't talking of simple dumb hydrogen but deutherium or helium-3 (complex machinery won't last so much time as the voyage anyway so).

Btw, it's not that fusion is "wimpy" it's that interstellar voyages require mindboggingly ridicolous amounts of power even for a fly-by of the closest star in our neighbourhood (like say Project Daedalus).
So yeah. Either that or we sit here forever.
GhostBirdofPrey Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013
Well I wasn't thinking no-return trip when I posted that.

Obviously using the drive to decelerate is inefficient, better to use magnetic sails for entering a system and aerobraking/aerocapture for entering orbit whenever possible.
bobafetthotmail Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013
It's more like using the all the fuel you can possibly carry in the acceleration phase allows to have the shortest possible travel times.
Depending on how good magsails (or electrostatic sails) turn out to be, they may or may not be a good idea to decelerate. For now it's too early to know. (as for fusion engines for that matter)
SMPritchard Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
To shed parasitic mass.
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