GAG drives

I’ve already described my power source for the ships’ propulsion drives: the ones that accelerate them and manoeuvre them around. Now I want to mention how the enormous power could be applied.

Firstly, let me give you an idea of the problem by means of a contemporary example. During the early days of flight, petrol engines and propellers did not produce much power. Straight line acceleration forces were not much of a problem, either for the airframe or the pilot. In turns, this was a different matter. It was quickly discovered that the G forces encountered in tight turns were a serious issue. In those days, there were even occasions when the wings of an aircraft were ripped off in the turns and this was obviously not a good thing for either the craft or its crew.

Gradually, we learned about these forces and how to design the planes so that this sort of thing did not happen. By the end of the twentieth century, our materials of construction, jet engines and our understanding of the mechanics of flight were so good that aircraft could pull ten G’s or more comfortably without falling to bits. This was especially true of military aircraft. At this point, the plane itself was no longer the weak link in the aim to improve performance: that role fell to the fragile human pilot.

There is only so much that training can achieve to allow humans to withstand high G. After that, there seems to be a limit to aircraft and spacecraft performance. Some things can be done to push this envelope wider. Fighter pilots wear suits that apply pressure to the torso, helping to prevent the loss of blood to the brain that would inevitably lead to unconsciousness under prolongued high G manoeuvres. There is still a ceiling of performance that is limited to G only slightly in excess of 10.

I wanted my ships to be able to flit around in tight arcs at phenomenal speeds. It was this as much as the accelleration itself that I saw as a huge problem. More on this in the AG section. My warships could take off in a straight line at over 100G. This had to be tackled first and is what the GAG drive is all about.

So what is GAG?

GAG stands for gravity-antigravity. Essentially, the ship’s drive projects a source that behaves like mass in front of itself. A bit like a donkey following a carrot on a stick in front of its nose, the ship is pulled towards the source. It never gets any closer because the ship drive continually moves the goalposts as it goes. This is the opposite of the thrust that causes jets to move. It is a pull, rather than a push. It is also no good on its own to allow the structure of the ship and crew to accelerate any harder than 10G.

No, what we need is an identical antigravity field to be produced behind the ship at the same time. This serves to push the ship as hard as it is being pulled from the opposite end. Now we all know what happens in a tug of war. When two teams pull on a rope it becomes stretched and may even break. The same would happen if one end of the rope was attached to a wall. However, what happens if both teams try to exert force on the rope in the same direction? Well, the rope is no longer stretched because it is being pulled as fast as it is being pushed. The rope and the two teams pick up speed until they are running as fast as they can. This is the essential principle of the GAG drive; 50G of acceleration is applied by pulling. 50 G is generated by pushing. The ship accelerates at 100G but experiences no forces to either stretch or compress it: the same applies to the human crew. Essentially, there is no longer a limit on how rapidly the ship can change speed: we can use all of the tremendous might of the matter-antimatter power generator. Hurray!

This sounds good, but I have oversimplified it a bit to get the basic concept across. I assumed that the G and AG components of the field would obey normal rules of field strength. It follows that the ship would experience no force at only one point in the middle of the two fields. Everywhere else it would feel tension or compression forces which increased in magnitude towards either end of the hull. If you are okay with physics you may already have spotted that the further from the ship that the G and AG sources are projected, the less force the ends of the ship will experience. Also, given the field strength laws, the propelling forces on the ship are weaker. This is entirely commensurate with the golden rule that ‘you don’t get something for nothing’, a rule which frustrates all designers.

I refer to ‘G overspill’ in my books. This is a reference to the imperfect but necessary distribution of G forces throughout the ships. I produced a spreadsheet to determine what these would be. Using this data and some operational efficiencies, power limits etc, I determined just how each type of vessel could move, dependent on whether it had fit trained military personnel aboard, hardened merchantmen or passengers.

For each class of vessel, I could see that the vessels would still outperform the human occupants once G overspill reached significant levels. In the case of passenger ships especially, comfort of the passengers and their ability to move around the ships severely compromised the performance of the vessel. something had to be done about this, so I invented internal AG systems.

These will be described in the next section before we move on to ship shielding and cloaking devices. Lastly, we’ll cover weapons. See you soon, tech-heads!

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