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  1. RE-N2 "Nuke" Atomic Rocket Motor Width: 2.5 meters Length: 6.0 meters Mass: 24.0 tonnes High Thrust Mode - Max Thrust: 720 kiloNewtons - Engine Isp: 600 seconds - Thrust to Weight ratio: ~3 High Efficiency Mode - Max Thrust: 360 kiloNewtons - Engine Isp: 1200 seconds - Thrust to Weight ratio: ~1.5 Real-life experimental rocket technology extends pretty far beyond the techs you can research in KSP, if you count unfinished projects that we know will work. The end game in KSP gets a bit dry. I think it'd be nice if some experimental tech were added to stock KSP. There are a bunch of these for which we have measured attributes of the real thing to provide examples with which to go by. This larger, variable thrust ARM I've suggested above is based on plans for the NERVA program before it was cancelled. It was known that it would be possible to make the NERVA engine capable of raising its thrust during flight, at the cost of efficiency. Also, the original NERVA came out with a specific impulse of 850 seconds, but future refinements could have theoretically improved this figure to considerably higher values. So my RE-N2 "Nuke" is Rockomax's refinement of the LV-N "Nerv" ARM, both generally improving on the design (as well as making it larger) and giving it the capability of swapping modes like what the R.A.P.I.E.R. engine can do. The high thrust mode is less efficient than the LV-N but has substantially higher TWR, while the high efficiency mode has lower TWR but substantially higher specific impulse. This engine would be invaluable for long-range missions both due to its high efficiency and its versatility as it can take advantage of the Oberth effect more easily, helping to make back some of the lost efficiency. It also just provides something more to research. I'm thinking it should go in the 1,000 science tier, two tiers past the LV-N. There are other rocket technologies that could be added to KSP at even higher tech tiers, such as: the popular Orion rocket, the alternative to Orion--the Medusa, the new ion engine--the VASIMR, the high-tech Daedalus, the extremely efficient solar sail, or the laser ablator sail which doesn't need to carry its fuel along. Orion As many of you already know, the Orion rocket would detonate a small fission charge behind it every second or so, absorbing the blast with a pusher plate and getting very high thrust and high efficiency. Future refinements could use smaller charges at a higher rate of detonation, improve efficiency by directing the blast more in-line with the spacecraft, or use hydrogen fusion charges for greater efficiency. Medusa The Medusa rocket would carry a large sail ahead of the craft, and would detonate charges much like the Orion craft. The sail would add mass to the ship, but it would be able to collect much more of the blast, enabling greater efficiency as well as a smoother ride. VASIMR VASIMR is a refinement to the ion engines we've put on space probes in recent decades, and it improves efficiency somewhat and greatly increases thrust, but most importantly, it is capable of varying its thrust vs. its efficiency much like the NERVA program originally had planned. Unlike most others in this list, the VASIMR is currently past initial development phases and is very near to seeing actual use. Likely within the next decade, a spacecraft equipped with a VASIMR engine will have already made its way out beyond Earth. Daedalus This rocket would use a set of lasers to detonate a constant stream of very tiny fission or fusion charges from within the craft, and would direct the extremely hot plasma out the back by deflecting it with electromagnets. The efficiency is extremely high, though it requires a very massive engine, so it's only useful for very large ships. Thrust is meager yet potentially far greater than Dawn-style ion engines can provide. The original development of this engine came through research on the most effective way to reach another star within a human's lifetime. A two-stage Daedalus craft could reach 12% the speed of light and perform a flyby of another star within 50 years of launch, collecting data as it passes and relaying that data to Earth. The Project Longshot aimed to refine Daedalus to go a bit slower but actually enter orbit of the star, providing far more time to study it and report the findings back home. Solar Sail We had long been aware that it was theoretically possible to build a solar sail craft, but with existing materials it seemed its TWR would be too low to be of much use. The solar sail gets its push from the solar wind and the momentum transferred by photons which are a massless particle--the sail will wear out due to the rigors of space but its efficiency is theoretically infinite as light itself (in non-ionizing wavelengths) does not remove any material from the sail. The LightSail project is trying to revive this idea, using modern materials and robotics to make the craft extremely light. They have performed a couple successful tests and plan to eventually launch a full scale solar sail probe soon. The probe will be very tiny and as such will not be able to carry very decent instruments, but it will also be very cheap. Perhaps one day we'll send hundreds of these out to explore the lower-importance parts of the solar system. Laser Ablator Sail The laser ablator sail does not carry an engine onboard but instead carries an ablator sail. This sail is similar to the solar sail but its skin is heated to very high temperatures by the laser and it gradually ablates, generating thrust. The laser sail is remarkably efficient due to its mass being almost entirely "fuel". Its thrust is pretty low, but it could accelerate over a long period of time, eventually reaching incredibly high speeds. A laser mounted in Earth orbit would focus its beam on the LAS spacecraft. The biggest disadvantage to this is that it would only be able to generate thrust away from Earth. The Breakthrough Starshot program wants to build one of these and send it to a nearby star at perhaps as much as 20% of the speed of light. The tiny craft would not be able to collect very much useful data on its trip, but simply making the encounter with another star may be enough to generate interest in the space program. And since the laser is reusable and the craft is cheap, you can send another one out as soon as the first one is done accelerating. Perhaps one day we'll have tiny instruments we can fit on one of these, powerful enough to collect useful data from other stars. I'd like to see some of these technologies put into KSP, at higher tiers of science unlocks. It would be neat to be able to refine our methods of travel beyond the currently existing limits. Now I'm not one to suggest adding other stars to KSP, I think that going to them would get very boring since in order to reach them, you'd have to go so fast that gravity ceases to be important to the travel. But I had an alternative idea that some folks might find interesting: a nearby red dwarf. There could be a tiny star orbiting deep in the outskirts of Kerbol's influence, unknown initially. You'd have to upgrade your tracking station all the way in order to track it, or you could stumble upon it and find it on your map after you got close enough to it. You'd have to actually get pretty near it in order to see its planets and moons, so there'd be some discovering to do. Maybe its planets would vary from one game to the next. I think that could be fun to play with.
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