Latest blog post: An unforseen hiatus. (2023-01-02)
Alliance's shuttles are very robust.
(This is a dupe to fix the page count being misaligned due to the spread, just move along please!)
First off, GREAT spread. This looks really cool! Second, I can easily see this being mistaken for a secret military vehicle of some sort ("aliens" would NOT be my first thought upon seeing this). Third, it says something about the structural integrity that it survived a missile hit (a detail currently unknown by our heroes) and crashing into the ground mostly intact.
I've been doing a little research on fusion reactors lately. They actually contain astonishingly little energy at any one time. In current experimental tokamak reactors, the worst accidents that have ever happened ("major disruptions" that channel the entire plasma content straight into the wall) can just barely burn a hole in the inner vessel, and the hole doesn't even leak radioactives. Fusion reactors have inherent process safety.
If the reactor was directly hit, the neutron-activated plasma-facing materials might be exposed, but even that is miles less dangerous than you'd see in a well-designed fission reactor, much less a melted-down one. And the shuttle was hit forward, in the crew compartment, where the reactor is unlikely to be.
According to the sidebar, and Gharr's earlier comment that he'd be back in ~12 days, the shuttle was pulling at least 1g acceleration the whole way. That's a delta-v expenditure so massive that lifting off from Earth (a task that costs chemical rockets 95%+ of their mass in fuel and fuel tankage) would add less than 2% to the one-way cost, and the shuttle's mass appears to be mostly non-fuel. Exhaust velocity (assuming the shuttle's main propulsion is a reaction drive at all) must be absolutely insane, and powering it would require *at least* fusion power.
Mind you, insane exhaust velocities *are* possible with fusion. The fusion-powered Caplan Thruster achieves exhaust velocities of over .01c using less than half of its power output, although there are both health and stealth issues with a drive system that spews oxygen-14.
And of course, DB's replies elsewhere in this thread drop the implication that the shuttle's main drives might not use rocketry in the first place. There was an exhaust plume when it separated from the Dawn, but that might have just been a maneuvering thruster.