ramscoop n.

a space propulsion method that uses electromagnetic fields at the front of a spaceship to gather interstellar material for fuel for a fusion-powered space drive

[suggested by Standard English ramjet]


  • 1965 L. Niven World of Ptavvs in Worlds of Tomorrow Mar. 33/1 page image Larry Niven bibliography

    The interstellar ramscoop robots had been searching out man-habitable systems for nearly a century.

  • 1966 L. Niven in If Feb. 154/1 Larry Niven

    It’s a light pressure drive powered by incomplete hydrogen fusion. They use an electromagnetic ramscoop to get their own hydrogen from space.

  • 1975 C. Boyce Catchworld (1977) 70

    The Fleet was at last in ramscoop formation.

  • 1979 J. Varley Titan (1987) 19 John Varley

    A real big fusion ramscoop. The machinery is in the hub, electromagnetic field generators to funnel the interstellar hydrogen into the center, where it gets burned.

  • 1982 G. Benford Relativistic Effects in In Alien Flesh (1988) 77 Gregory Benford

    Upstream lies the chewing gullet of the ramscoop ship, where the incoming protons are sucked in and where their kinetic power is stolen from them by the electric fields.

  • 1989 P. Anderson Boat of Million Years (1990) 500 Poul Anderson bibliography

    When it was safely away, robots went outside. Flitting around the hull, they deployed the latticework of ramscoop and fire chamber. By this time, low boost under torch drive had built up a considerable speed.

  • 1992 V. Vinge Fire upon Deep i. vi. 40 Vernor Vinge bibliography

    The view closed on a decrepit vessel, perhaps two hundred meters long, wasp-waisted to support a ramscoop drive.

  • 1995 G. Benford Sailing Bright Eternity (1996) 17 Gregory Benford

    Dead slow, compared to what’s zipping around here now. A ramscoop, big blue-white tail dead straight, scratched across space.

  • 1999 A. Reynolds Galactic North in G. Dozois Mammoth Book of Best New Science Fiction 13 (2000) 92 Alastair Reynolds

    The ramscoops gasped at interstellar gas, sucking lone atoms of cosmic hydrogen from cubic metres of vacuum.

  • 2000 K. MacLeod Cosmonaut Keep (2001) 47 Ken MacLeod

    He could have lived with a universe whose interstellar gulfs could be crossed only with generation ships, cold-sleep or ramscoops.

  • 2005 C. Stross Accelerando viii. 385 Charles Stross bibliography

    Near the head, things are different: no huge claws there, but the delicately branching fuzz of bush robots, nanoassemblers poised ready to repair damage in flight and spin the parachute of a ramscoop when the ship is ready to decelerate.

  • 2006 N. Asher Polity Agent ix. 213 Neal Asher bibliography

    The ship surfaced from U-space one astronomical unit out, and travelling at three quarters the speed of light, it used ramscoop to decelerate: opening out orange wings radiating from the abundant hydrogen being dragged in around it, soon followed by the sun-bright ignition of a fusion drive.

Research requirements

antedating 1965

Earliest cite

Larry Niven 'World of Ptavvs'

Research History
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a reprint of Larry Niven's "The Warriors"; Mike Christie verified the cite in the 1966 first magazine appearance.
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 2000 reprint of Alastair Reynolds 1999 "Galactic North".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a 1992 cite from Vernor Vinge's "A Fire Upon the Deep".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1999 reprint of Stephen Baxter's 1998 "Saddlepoint: Roughneck".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1996 reprint of Gregory Benford's 1995 "Sailing Bright Eternity".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1990 reprint of Poul Anderson's "The Boat of a Million Years".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a citation from a 1971 reprint of Larry Niven's "A Gift From Earth".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1988 reprint of Gregory Benford's "Relativistic Effects".
Malcolm Farmer submitted a cite from a 1993 reprint of Paul McAuley's 1991 "Eternal Light". Malcolm Farmer suggested Chris Boyce's 1975 "Catchworld", and Mike Christie located a cite in a 1977 edition.
Mike Christie submitted a 1965 cite from Larry Niven's "World of Ptavvs".

Last modified 2021-01-05 23:02:18
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.