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Sail Away From Earth

The Zuikaku was the first of its class, a revolutionary spaceship in mass, maneuverability and velocity.  Sailing the solar magnetic field, its 5GWe fission reactor could propel the loaded 1000 ton ship to a quarter gee near Earth orbit.  Of course the thrust fell off at a square of the distance from the sun and the bubble around the ship only pushed it at a hundredth of a gee by Jupiter's orbit.  That hardly mattered when it carried enough nuclear fuel and bubble blowing gas to cruise for two years without refueling. 

The mag ships had their limits.  Mostly they were confined to the inner solar system, though the Shōkaku did make it to Saturn in the Expedition of 2050.  They could carry three hundred tons of cargo or up to fifty passengers, but they could never land or even approach Earth closer than the Van Allen Belts.  Their reactors tended to rot away after five years of powered flight.  Still, they represented a massive and - before the war - exclusively Japanese improvement in interplanetary flight. 

Nine were completed before the war.  They planted settlements at Mars and on near and main belt asteroids.  They made the first extensive expeditions to Mercury.  They also proved to be the first true interplanetary warships.  While the Allies mostly flew improvised civilian ships armed with missile launchers and a few modified near earth combat ships, the Easterner Alliance could count on a fleet of swift maneuverable ships sporting UV lasers that could hit and penetrate thin hulls at nearly 90,000 kilometers.  

The war went against the Easterners.   But ironically, the Zuikaku class outlasted other ships of the era beyond any expectation.  The three surviving vessels fled with the Easterner BattleStar at the end of the War, eventually making it to the stars.   And the design, still far ahead of its time, became the basis for the Class C shuttles employed by the Cityships as they set out to Alpha Centauri and Tau Ceti.   In each Cityship's holds were another half dozen mag ships.   Into the first decade of the twenty-second century mag ships designed from recovered records and the remaining pieces of the Zuikaku ships still plied the inner solar system, delivering people and goods to distant destinations.

-Excerpt from Chapter Five of the The New Great Big Book of Spaceships, Edition 4.2.4, Public Information ePress, 2173

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