Rockabout

 

RockSlingers_card_JJ_colors

I’m an astronaut, and I love my job. But someday, I don’t want to just do my job right here, by Earth.  While I can, I want to do my job way, way WAY out there, out in the asteroids! Even out in the Belt!

But I’ve been thinking….

As we move out into the Belt and start to colonize the larger asteroids, people will soon be thinking of themselves to be more like Asterites rather than Earthlings. In other words, they will know that they are entirely on their own, and will eventually adapt to doing so.  It’s a fair bet that these colonies, just like the island cultures on old Earth, will start to specialize and become unique entities on their own.  As they do so, trade and inter-colony travel will call for a specialized kind of vessel, specifically unique to this environment.  They will need a vessel that can carry cargo as well as passengers, and most importantly, to carry them cheaply and Here on earth, we have several varieties of small, two-engine passenger aircraft’s that the bigger airlines refer to as “puddle-jumpers”. They go from island to island in places like Hawaii and the South Seas.  It will be the same between asteroids and within asteroid clusters that we call “families” in places like the Jovian Trojans and some groups within the asteroid belt itself.

Let’s take a brief look at the requirements: A vehicle that would be something simple, cheap, and reliable.  It needs to easily launch, easily maneuver, and easily rendezvous with another rock. Naturally, something that can haul cargo and humans, with both pressurized and Something that doesn’t require much fuel! Here’s what I have in mind:  I have nick-named it, “The Rockabout!” It would be a fuselage about 200’ long, with 1/5 of its length up front pressurized. If need be, pressurized capsules could be piggy-backed later for more passengers. The rest of the bay could be open for cargo or rocks. Two outrigger engines riding on fuel tanks, almost like wings, and a combination cargo door ramp at the rear. It would be like some of those old military cargo planes, such as the C-Right along the dorsal spine would be a large, simple ringbolt. This would hold the Snap-On hook from a heavy cable. On the asteroid it would be the launching station. It would be a simple, sturdy drum for a 2” cable with a detachable hook. The drum could rotate like a simple carousel, extending the length of the cable the ship is attached to, whipping it up to a very high speed. At the right moment, determined by computers, the snap hook would be released, and just like David’s sling, the Rockabout will be flung off at high speeds towards its destination. After that, it would simply coast along towards the destination. There would be no need for in-flight fuel consumption. Braking and maneuvering jets would be utilized upon arrival, and it would be moored or snagged by the settlement folks there.

Thanks for stopping by, folks. Check with you later.

JJ

A web comic about the space industry. Every Monday one page and one article is added until the complete 39 page story is finished. See what happens when the space industry tries to be profitable, and the astronauts find they’re in for a big surprise.