Matter Beam of Children of a Dead Earth fame commented and questioned my last post on the R-ray. That led to this:
But wait! With the use of R-rays you could in fact set up a space transport system to boost cargo modules to orbit or other planets. In effect the R-ray is like an orbital tower or bolo system (which Dr. Robert Forward tried to talk up in many of his books (go look for Indistinguishable From Magic). An station in geosynchronous orbit operates its R-ray in reverse (then it's an A-ray). It pulls cargo modules from the ground. this added mass causes it to drop orbit a bit so it also intercepts cargos from further out in the solar system, snagging them with another A-ray. This lets it maintain its altitude. Once in geo synchronous orbit the modules can be transferred to a ship or fired via A-ray out into the Black. If everyone does their job right the station remains in geosynchronous orbit. You could also use ships optimized for rocket drives in orbit. They snag a bunch of modules, do a hard burn to get them on the right trajectory, cut their beam and then slow down for another pass. If you do the slingshot move right the modules winds up taking some of the ship's momentum, slowing it down and saving propellant (pilots always worry about their propellant.)
The End of Luna
The stern of Luna ends in a an armored ram. The press and public ignorance ran with this fact and thought the ship was designed to ram opposing ships. It is doubtful a ramming attack could be made in combats fought over hundreds or thousands of kilometers. Closing n on a ship from that distance is problematical. A disabled ship would be boarded if it was practical or destroyed by weapons from a safe distance. Ramming a ship attempting to board you would invite a weapons attack.
The ram was actually meant for refueling operations. The Luna ca easily reach the asteroids. Many of them contain ice. Ice can be broken down to oxygen and hydrogen and the hydrogen processed into metallic hydrogen fuel pellets for the reaction drive. The ram is used to break up an area rich in ice. That ice is then fed into the small airlock in the stern and from there to a hopper that crushes the ice, melts it, filters it and pumps it to fuel. processing.
The lower airlock was just too darned handy to remain a mere secondary exit for ice mining. It was excellent for ejecting trash for one thing. From this practice it got named the outhouse.Trash disposal was a chore frequently done by new recruits and blowing the rookie (wearing a spacesuit of course) out of the airlock became a coming of age prank.
The small airlock does hold a single crewman and is very handy to use on airless worlds as cycling it wastes less air than the bug locks. It's also easily reached from the ground without a lift belt. In some missions to insert commandos on a habitable world both lock doors are left open and the men merely run through them quickly to exit.
The Luna doesn't have secondary craft. The airlocks along with lift belts and various insertion and extraction gear are an important part of covert missions. The outhouse gives the ship some flexibility since it's quicker to cycle and seal than the big locks and is an additional way to move people off the ship quickly.
After the first refueling operations were performed using the ice breaker move concerns rose about the hull being holed by rocks or debris. Engineers added foamed armor pallets to beef up protection to the hull and around the stern hatch.
One of the more unusual features of the Luna is that its 'ram' is also a landing light. Like the outer hull the ram is made of metasite. In this case the ram's metasite is transparent and a powerful light can be shined through it. Cameras can also give a view of the landing area, aimed through the ram.
The ram was eventually further strengthened by placing a dimple in the bottom. It's still not recommended to use the stern to ram another ship. But some personnel are curious.