In my Sci-Fi universe, I want humans to, initially, have two traits to their spaceship building:
- Really good drive systems, at least compared to other races.
- Complete and utter lack of any sci-fi "Deflectors"
From everything I know, this leads to a ship needing a heavily armored prow to withstand any sort of extended mission. Any sort of satellite debris hitting the ship when entering orbit needs to be absorbed and/or deflected, and the occasional errant object in interplanetary travel needs to be able to be withstood as well. And that's before we even get to military ships.
The question I have is What is required for a "High-speed" spacecraft without shields? What is a reasonable "Speed Limit" for such vessels, keeping potential damage to a minimum? Being able to withstand impacts is great, but if you have to replace and repair the front of your ship after every trip, it's not really that useful (Although a courier vessel could take advantage of such a scheme).
To be entirely clear, I do not want alternate deflectors, or EM fields, or whatever. These ships operate like a celestial snowplow - If it's in front of them, it gets run over.
Additionally, the ships are not "Torch Drive" ships that are continually thrusting. They accelerate up to travel speed, coast towards their destination, and then slow down on arrival. I expect trips to take weeks or months. High Fractional-C velocities are, frankly, unwanted. At even 5-10% of light speed, the energies involved are enormous.
This is also for sub-light travel, not faster-than-light. FTL is accomplished in a completely different method, where such things are not something that needs to be worried about. Generally speaking, this is for travel within a system.