If one were to take a visit to space, one might get the chance to see a most intriguing sight; six sleek, pointed rocketships, arranged in loose formation around the ANSS Philadelphia. If one were to inquire as to what they were, one would receive a reply at once; they are the six "Mercury"-class torchships of the Allied Space Patrol, the most cutting-edge spacecraft of the Allied Nations.
Each torchship is state-of-the-art, capable of achieving speeds far in excess of any other spacecraft. The key to this is the torchship's fusion propulsion drive, an incredibly powerful propulsion system using the energy released from fusing atoms together to heat up the hydrogen reaction mass, before expelling it out of the craft's rear in a wake of intensely hot plasma that propels the torchship across the void at incredible velocities. Each "Mercury"-class torchship, equipped with a single fusion drive capable of producing up to 20 million newtons of thrust, can accelerate at an impressive 1 G for up to 28 hours. At a lesser accelerations, a torchship could maintain constant acceleration for days. Theoretically, given the high exhaust velocity and thrust of a "Mercury"-class, the Allied Nations could reach Mars in under a month (though this would be a one-way trip). However, reaction mass remains a serious limiting factor, making such journeys purely academic for the time being.
Of course, such a powerful engine is bound to produce considerable waste heat. To deal with this problem, each "Mercury"-class is outfitted with collapsible radiators. Easily one of the most striking features of the torchship, the radiator array consists of massive folding "sails" of black radiator panelling that, when fully extended, seem to almost dwarf the vessel by comparison, and tend to give the distinct impression of one of the sailing ships of old. Each torchship is also outfitted with a heat sink designed to soak up excess heat during battles, when the use of radiators would be impractical, and can simply vent coolant out into space as a last resort.
Having been designed with combat in mind, the "Mercury"-class torchships are also equipped with a powerful arsenal of weaponry. The primary armament of a Mercury-class consists of a high power spectrum beam cannon in a spinal mount running along the entire length of the ship. Supplanting the spinal gun are several smaller spectrum gun turrets. Each torchship is also outfitted with various sensors, ranging from radar and spectrum to passive infrared, in order to detect incoming ships and large objects on a collision course with the ship.
Defensively, the "Mercury"-class torchships do not have much in the way of armour plating, due to the prohibitive mass requirements. Nevertheless, the ship's titanium hull provides some protection against impacts and weaponry, supplanted by a whipple shield meant to stop micrometeors and kinetic weapons. Additionally, to protect the entire ship against cosmic rays and other naturally occuring particle radiation, the liquid hydrogen propellant tanks are designed to surround the rest of the ship, while the crew quarters are surrounded by lead plating. A shadow shield made out of lead blocks the ionizing radiation from the drive itself, while neutron radiation is dealt with by a second shadow shield, constructed out of paraffin.
Each torchship is crewed by a ten-member crew, with enough supplies to last the entire crew for up to 16 months. Food is provided by a combination of algae culture, freeze-dried foods, and nutrition pills. During thrust, the torchship's engine is sufficient to simulate gravity, but there are few concessions made for when the ship is at rest or accelerating slowly; a set of exercise equipment is used to fight the effects of microgravity. Each torchship also has a set of equipment and space suits for EVA, with a number of airlocks throughout the ship to facilitate this.
As of present, all six of the "Mercury"-class Torchships are docked at the ANSS Philadelphia.
The six "Mercury"-class Torchships are, in order of construction:
- ANV "Mercury", the lead ship of the "Mercury"-class and its namesake.
- ANV "Venus", the second ship in the class.
- ANV "Terra", the third ship in the class.
- ANV "Mars", the fourth ship in the class.
- ANV "Jupiter", the fifth ship in the class.
- ANV "Saturn", the sixth and newest ship in the class.
No new ships have been planned at this time.