TL9+ Nuclear Orbital Lighter (Lifter and Spaceplane) "Alida"

An alternative orbital lighter if you allow fission air rams to operate in Earth's atmosphere in your campaign from "spaceports of convenience". Using this makes orbital travel dirt cheap, possibly too cheap. Note these are TL9 designs so mature technology in THS.

Alida class space planes are cheap reusable two part orbital lighters that can take off and land at a normal landing strip anywhere in the world that has a clean water supply. It can easily make the return journey to and from a low-earth-orbit space-station once every two orbits or every 180 minutes.

The lifter craft and the orbiter craft are both capable of independent operation and flight. The orbiter rides under the lifter until separation above the atmosphere. Both use easy to obtain water as their reaction mass.

Using Nuclear Thermal Rockets in fuel-less air-ram mode the lifter takes off and clears local population centres before going supersonic and accelerating to maximum air speed in an easterly direction. It then boosts towards orbit until it runs out of reaction mass. At this point the orbiter detaches, engages its rockets and completes the climb into orbit. The lifter drops back into atmosphere and flies back to its base using its engines in air-ram mode. There it picks up a second Alida orbiter and makes the trip again half an hour later.

Having docked and exchanged passengers the orbiter re-enters atmosphere and then makes a rapid descent back to Earth.

The Lifter therefore cycles every 90 minutes and each orbiter every 180 minutes.

Typically these craft take off over water and international airspace as few countries want fission craft flying over their territory. So, they typically take off from equatorial coastal countries and islands with several hundred miles of water to their east.

Alida Lifter "Big Al":

Front

Central

Rear

dST/dHP 30, Hnd 4 atmo/0 space, SR 5/4, HT 12, Move Flight 1G/2500 mph/0.69 mps, Move Boost 3G/1.89 mps, LWt 100, Load 0.2, SM +6, Occ 2+0 SV, dDR 2, Cost M$ 6.1, TL9, Streamlined, Winged, Length 40 yards

DeltaV 2.58 mps

Alida Orbiters "Little One" and "Little Two":

Front

Central

Rear

dST/dHP 20, Hnd 4 atmo/0 space, SR 5/4, HT 12, Move Flight 1G/2500 mph/0.69 mps, Move Boost 3G/4.05 mps, LWt 30, Load 0.3, SM +5, Occ 1+2 SV, dDR 1, Cost M$ 1.9, TL9, Streamlined, Winged, Length 20 yards

DeltaV 4.05 mps - 15 Water Fuel Tanks 15*0.15*1.8 (15 tank adjustment) = 4.05 mps

Combined Effective Delta-V = 2.58 + 4.05 = 6.63 mps

Economics:

Advance Return Ticket price = $1300


Transhuman Space Index