The Millennial Project 2.0

The Ballistic Railway Network

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One of the more ambitious projects of the Asgard phase may be the creation of a solar-system-spanning transportation infrastructure that can best exploit solar energy for propulsion and minimize the demand for propellants. Two likely technologies may be employed for this; momentum transfer rotovator structures and magnetic mass accelerators, both of which would rely on electrodynamic tethers or plasma sail/solar particle deflection for orbital correction and momentum recovery. These large structures would be employed in large numbers in many key locations in the solar system based on the network of trajectories in the so-called Interplanetary Highway of optimal gravity-assisted trajectories and would be used to propel a series of minimalist spacecraft in form of simple capsules that use these systems as their primary propulsion.

Momentum transfer rotovators may first be employed in LEO as a means to assist the construction and support of orbital facilities in GEO based on terrestrial materials. They consist of paired electrodynamic tethers rotating about a hub module to which solar collectors, backup propulsion, and other systems are attached. Larger systems, based on nanofiber materials, would be used for the BRN and would feature long solar tube collectors (as described in the section on Artificial Gravity Contingencies) or large separate companion solar arrays beaming energy by laser. These systems accelerate or decelerate vehicles by intercepting them with grappling interfaces, carrying them in their rotation, and releasing them at a different point in their rotation period, after which they must recover momentum by electrodynamic or solar particle deflection or by intercepting another spacecraft.

Magnetic mass accelerator/decelerators would consist of large ‘loopway’ systems based on long tensegrity truss structures and discrete magnetic loop modules which each host their own solar collectors, power storage, and orbital correction propulsion. Using laser-guided alignment and module-to-module communication, these structures would align themselves into a collective ‘track’ thousands of kilometers long serving as a mass accelerator/decelerator for simple spacecraft equipped with their own magnetic field coils. Successively wider loops at the ends of the track would produce a conical shape that would be used to provide a small amount of trajectory correction on entry into the track. Station structures based on rigid truss tructures may integrate these tracks directly to some orbital facilities, routing vessels directly to/from docking ports without the need for secondary propulsion.

Both rotovator and loopway systems would have potential for integrating into surface mass accelerator systems, allowing vehicles to go from a planetary or lunar surface to other destinations in the solar system. However, orbit-to-ground transfer may be a much more difficult prospect and the use of Space Elevator systems much more effective as a means of two-way surface-to-space transit.

Spacecraft used in the BRN would be simple capsule-shaped structures, perhaps 12 meters in diameter and several times as long, equipped with secondary propulsion for attitude control and trajectory correction. They would likely follow the design approach of orbital shuttle class beamships, employing a wide truss structure whose payloads are contained in their volume with functional systems mounted on the truss exterior. However, they would be unable to deploy very large solar collector systems, using solar ‘tiles’ over every available surface of their basic structure, using trailing panel arrays, quick-retracting arrays, and relying more heavily on stored power. Owing to their relatively small size, BRN vehicles would tend to be very specialized in function with various forms and sizes of dedicated cargo and passenger vehicles likely.

The BRN would demand extreme computer precision in trajectory control in order to precisely ‘thread the needle’ with every rotovator or loopway intercept. This by itself may be its greatest technical development challenge. And for outer reaches of the solar system the relatively small vehicle sizes would limit use to unmanned vessels or require the use of some form of suspended animation to make very long travel times tolerable for passengers. Since the technology would be competing against such things as laser molecular conveyor beams for raw materials transport and progressively more powerful means of direct propulsion such as fusion rockets we must consider the BRN in the context of a specific logistical situation depending on the somewhat unforeseeable outcomes for these other technologies. It may be that fully self-propelled space transports and cyclic transports may remain the most practical approaches to space transit long-term or that the BRN may be limited to individual transit routes supporting specialized transport for very specific development projects. Time will tell. But if realized as a comprehensive solar-system-wide network the BRN may ultimately rank as one of the greatest and largest achievements of civilization.

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d v e ASGARD
Phases Foundation Aquarius Bifrost Asgard Avalon Elysium Solaria Galactia
Cultural Evolution Transhumanism  •  Economics, Justice, and Government  •  Key Disruptive Technologies
Life In Asgard
Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory - MUOL  •  Modular Unmanned Orbital Factory - MUOF  •  Manned Orbital Factory - MOF  •  Valhalla  •  EvoHab  •  Asgard SE Upstation  •  Asteroid Settlements  •  Inter-Orbital Way-Station  •  Solar Power Satellite - SPS  •  Beamship Concept  •  Inter-Orbital Transport  •  Cyclic Transport  •  Special Mission Vessels  •  Orbital Mining Systems  •  The Ballistic Railway Network  •  Deep Space Telemetry and Telecom Network - DST&TN
Asgard Supporting Technologies
Urban Tree Housing Concepts  •  Asgard Digitial Infrastructure  •  Inchworms  •  Remotes  •  Carrier Pallets  •  WristRocket Personal Mobility Unit  •  RocShaw Personal Mobility Units  •  Pallet Truck  •  ZipLine Tether Transport System  •  MagTrack Transport System  •  BioSuit  •  SkyGarden and SkyFarm Systems  •  Meat Culturing  •  Microgravity Food Processors  •  Pools and Baths in Orbit  •  Solar Sails  •  Plasma and Fusion Propulsion

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