Here's a look at some of the upcoming stuff from LAUNCH WINDOW's first full issue!
Let Freedom Ring (exerpt):
Let Freedom Ring (exerpt):
One does not simply decide to go into space.
The distance is not great, as these things go - a home-built rocket made by amateur enthusiasts can easily cross the hundred-odd kilometers needed to reach open space around Terra. However, since gravity that high is still roughly ninety-seven percent of what it is at sea level, these rockets will fall back down as soon as their propellent is gone and burn up in the atmosphere. To actually stay in orbit requires a staggering change in velocity - the same amount used by the first expedition to Saturn.
Annabelle Li was able to take her crew on that kind of jump only by flagrantly cheating at every possible turn. Her current body started life a CASSTOR catapult-assisted rocket back when Annabelle herself was being assembled by the Brazillian military. The orbiter had since been modified with a collapsible L-Drive dish in order to take advantage of the boom in ground-based laser installations. The little rocket carried no on-board propellant - she could make orbit with just the energy of the ambient atmosphere exploding under her bell. This gave Annabelle and her crew enormous leeway in their available launch window - after all, staying in the thick atmosphere longer actually extended their delta-V- but it required waiting for an available beam to launch on.
“I can get us a beam in twenty-one hours.” Wade leaned back into his flight chair and rubbed between his eyes. “That’s literally the soonest I can get. It’ll cost 50% over standard and we’ll have to portage to Cape Troy to use it.”
“That’s...really awful. You know that, don’t you?” Niles Demirkan had a talent for sounding mildly amused.
“Well, unless y’all wanna go up as cargo on another ‘Bell, that’s our situation.”
“That’s an option?” Tilde looked at her husband. “You can get us up in a Liberty Bell?”
“Uh...yes?” Wade shrugged and grinned sheepishly. “I was actually joking, but one of my Hive-fi followers is PLO on a ‘Bell that flies local, I think. Lemme check real quick -”
“Wade,” Niles still sounded amused. “Do you know everybody in the Solar System?”
“Nah. Mebbe one percent - tops.”
Tilde ignored the exchange between her husband and their friend. She was thinking.
“Wade, did you think to check and see if anyone on Lucky Libby is one of your followers?”
“Tilde…That would’ve been smart.”
It worked out that Wade, by virtue of “knowing” almost a hundred million people, did have a Hive-fi follower on the crew of a Liberty Bell boosting out of Redstone XTA. Two hours of negotiation and a five-figure transfer of funds from Tom got Annabelle Li loaded as freight on the Liberty Bell Roll Tide Roll. They would space in less than twelve hours.
The time was far from idle. Annabelle Li was herself a launch vehicle, and therefore had many features that were ideal for launching cargo and impossible for being cargo.Wade, Tusk, and Annabelle’s robotic minions worked furiously to dismantle the CASSTOR’s twelve-meter high launch fairing. Since the rocket’s only on orbit power source were solar panels mounted on the interior of the fairing, the crew spend several hours more installing aftermarket panels in Annabelle Li’s four equipment pallets. Port inspection took another hour and a half, during which Wade and Tusk both desperately jogged the two kilometers to the terminal building, showered, and took a tram back in time to for Li’s loading procedure.
Which started nearly forty-five minutes late.
“Look on the bright side,” Tilde playfully nuzzled Wade’s cheek as he stood fuming on the tarmac. “You smell much better.”
Liberty Bells were the unappreciated workhouses of surface to orbit transport. Resembling a massively upscaled Mercury capsule from the days when spacecraft were glorified warheads, Liberty Bells were cargo liners that rode into space on leased L-Drive bells from spaceports across the world. There were not only the most common spacecraft in production, there were the most common ever made - only the single use megatankers from Titan are produced in higher numbers. Liberty Bells were reliable. They were trusted. And most of all they were cheap - the lasers were already paid for, and the air was free.
Roll Tide Roll was typical of the breed; a cone eighteen meters tall serving as a command module, waiting to be attached to a payload fairing. These were voluminous enough to hold eight standard “Conestoga” cargo containers and was also part of the L-drive assembly - a ring of turbofan compressors surmounting a twenty meter wide parabolic dish. The Liberty Bell was currently in a vehicle assembly building, awaiting her cargo.
“They’re having to add an extension to the cargo fairing.” Wade, Niles and Tusk were in the attached lounge, with a dozen other people who were waiting to board the rocket. “And Annie’s too wide to dock anywhere but the center ring - we’re gonna be the only cargo.”
Tusk signed at the other two men.
“Yeah, we just might lose money on this job. Mebbe we can get Annie a new body for her birthday.”
Niles smiled. “Do AI have birthdays?”
“Why not? You do, and you’re an asshole.”
Tilde missed this exchange by virtue of being Annabelle Li’s Payload Officer. Despite Li being part of another rocket’s payload, Tilde still considered the CASSTOR very much her responsibility, especially since Annabell’s processor was to remain on board. There was also the rest of the cargo, break-bulk life support supplies for the Libby, and an inflatable cargo module to carry them once in orbit, that had to be carefully arranged around Annabelle Li and secured for launch. Again, this was PLO of Roll Tide Roll’s responsibility, but it was Tilde’s cargo.
Tilde made hir life hell until the everything was loaded to her satisfaction.
The last hurdle was a minor one - Tuskegee, being nearly twice as wide as a human being, was too large for the passenger coaches in the Liberty Bell’s cabin. The logistics were solved by Tusk simply agreeing to ride in his own custom flight chair in Annabell Li, but the problem was that Roll Tide Roll’s PLO wanted to charge for his seat anyway. Tilde, oblivious to karma, argued with hir until Wade offered to do a video tour of the rocket for his channel gratis once they were in orbit.One does not simply decide to go into space.