Lift Ships™, a short SciFi story of possibilities
Copyright © Bob Freeman, 2009-2019 All Rights Reserved
# H2Lift Ship Design: it's all about the sail.
H2Lift Ships look like a weird threesome: two tear drop shaped plates facing each other with a fat fabric jelly donut filling throughout.
Jelly, i.e., our friend the spider nano-fabric, traverses through the center of the donut ready to be filled with gaseous Hydrogen.
Boost rockets surround the edges of the plates to ensure a stable lift.
Circuitous tubing attached to compressor pumps suck down Hydrogen, and on-board liquid Oxygen is boiled off (-190c and above), and combined in the rocket reaction tubes. Add a single spark, boost up some 60km to the next inflection point on a pale blue circle of excited Hydrogen/Oxygen flame.
Upon depletion of the Hydrogen, the crew reconfigures the ship and deploys the balloon shell as a solar sail for outbound travel.
The same fabric is transformed again as a steerable parachute upon re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere.
After extended use, Hydrogen saturates everything on the ship, and electricity is 'electron non grata' throughout the structure.
The original H2Lift Ship designs utilized high-speed explosion-proof electric pumps to drive the rockets. These worked up to a point, but even with the spark generating sections isolated, they could overheat and ignite any free gases.
These pumps caused a few disasters too many, and most ships switched to non-metallic hardware.
Switching to peristaltic pumps located on the outside of the ship was tried, but they could never push the volume of gas needed compared to fast in-line electric pumps.
No matter the mechanical pumping system, they were never ideal and attempts to use human pumpers were equally bad.
Boost crews have to be fast, powerful, and lightweight, and only those with the best strength to weight ratios are employable.
With the advent of massive bio-mechanical interfaces and gene tweaking, non-human crews became de rigueur on most H2Lift Ships, especially for the owners who liked to make a profit.
With improved communication between species, Boost Canine Teams (BCT) were hired to run the pumps.
The BCT is picked up before launch and hitch a return ride on any one of the incoming transports.
For many canines, being part of BCT has become the preferred route to becoming a crew member on out-going ships.
Being a crew member on a LiftShip means a long and tedious journey, but pay, based on risk, means that rewards are not just kibbles and bits.
After deploying the solar sail, the Boost Crew has to pile into their spacesuits, link up and get ready to jump to a ship heading toward Earth LightSail ports. The jumpsuits have minimal air supplies, so missing a ride can have adverse effects.
Communication between the ships is critical to ensure that a Boost Crew jump does not end in failure.
The obvious communication system would be radios or walky-talkies. But Radio operators on large rocks and oceans weren't called "Sparks" for nothing; most Captains won't take that sort of risk in a hydrogen saturated environment.
Instead, they rely on tried and true naval signaling flags to communicate the number and status of a crew as well as expected movement. In-coming ships are always ready to pick up the team, both for mutual assistance and the honorarium they may receive.
There are a few ideal launch points, and none meet all the criteria:
1) The distance to space is thin (North/South Poles and mountain tops)
2) Air is stable (Deserts, Not poles and mountains)
3) Readily accessible water (not Deserts)
4) Lots of cheap energy and close to transport centers.
5) Bonus points if the Jetstream is close enough to deliver a speed bump.
Based on these factors: The need for stable air, cheap solar power, and available water (from the Salton Sea), has made the Niland launch facility one of the more reliable lift ports.
Niland, in the California desert, is hot in the winter and hotter in the summer, with virtually no rain and rarely a thunderstorm.
While hot air is thicker, it is also easier to maneuver in and can help push a hydrogen balloon up.
A spur line from the high-speed rail system serving the Port of Los Angeles and Las Vegas to the east ensures rapid transport to the rest of the country and the world.