Interplanetary travel on a massive scale could reduce the amount of energy spent on acceleration and deceleration by removing the ďfuelĒ from the space craft. Simply remove the weight of the fuel, engine, and superstructure to support both. The amount of money saved on fuel and spacecraft engine parts and maintenance fees would be astronomical.
Now are you afraid that you are left with a fleet of spacecraft that canít even get off the ground! Fear not. Letís assume that there is an important location in space that you need to travel to a lot. Find two asteroids nearby the two end-points of your travel. On each asteroid construct a powerful engine able to hold the asteroid in place as spacecraft are launched and slowed down. Massive fuel tanks might be necessary depending on the style of engine. Also attach positioning thrusters on the asteroid so it can be turned 360 on all axis. Now you move the asteroid to any location in space using the powerful counter thruster engine and the rotational thrusters.
At the center of each asteroidís mass where it is balanced begin constructing the launch tube. It is hexagonal latticework pipe that extends outward from the asteroid for miles. The length of the tube needs to be as long as it takes for your spacecraft to accelerate to your desired speed while taking the maximum g-forces you are willing to subject your cargo to. Wire the six sides of the latticework with electromagnets the same as maglev trains use. Attach thrusters to the sides of the latticework so the latticework and asteroid can be moved by computer in complete unison.
Equip each asteroid with the necessary generators, capacitors, and computers to launch and catch your spacecraft inside the hexagonal tube. Your spacecraft must be engineered with magnets so they can be launched and caught. The spacecraft should be equipped with navigational thrusters so they can be maneuvered during flight. Your design may require that a spacecraft is turned around after launch and before it is caught so your cargo will always take the strain of starting and stopping from the same position on the ship, that way the restraint design can be utilized for both starting and stopping.
Each asteroid will have to have enough fuel to push against the launching procedure so the asteroid isnít moved too far from itís location of operation. A launch / catch schedule will have to be maintained so no ships are taking off while another is trying to land. Perhaps the asteroids could be equipped with more than one tube to allow for a greater amount of traffic. If the tubes shared a common latticework the whole affair would be stronger.
Each asteroid would need to have some sort of laser guidance system that the spacecraft could hang onto for navigation. When the craft first enter the tube during slowdown they would have to be right on target. The reason I chose asteroids for this design is so their giant mass can be used as a shock absorber during take off and landing. Plus the mass of the asteroid will be able to help keep the tube steady during operation.
Thanks to the help of the good folks at http://www.physicsforums.com I have the launch tube length at approximately 1000 miles for a 4g acceleration to reach the speed of 25,000mph, a small price to pay when considering the savings. Think of the amount of train track that is pinned down all over the surface of the earth, whatís 1000 miles of tube in space? A lot less material than all the train track.
One way to keep your launcher in a stationary position would be by simultaneously launching, catching two or more vehicles in completely opposite directions.
© 2012 Brian L Hughes