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Patrol Off Mars

By the late 2080s Space Force Command realized that its fleet of eight Sword class frigates was too limited to keep up with the expanding and spreading space population.  The first step to address the problem was to order an additional four Swords.  Then development of two new ships began, one a larger long range patrol cruiser to replace the Swords, the second a smaller, faster frigate designed for the frontier.  

To operate from remote locations, the Byzantium class fast frigate used water for propellant.  Though not as efficient as hydrogen, water in a multi-phase microwave electrothermal engine could still offer acceptable performance, not to mention easy acquisition and storage.  Though it had barely half the maximum delta-v of the Sword class, this fast frigate could accelerate at up to half a gee fully loaded.  It could land and take off from any moon and even Mercury and Mars.  And it could cover 500,000 kilometers in under five hours, accelerating, turning over and decelerating.  Of course by then it was almost out of gas, but for quick response in search and rescue missions, this was more important than long term endurance.  

The Byzantium class fast frigate had a crew of only six and no gravity spin capability.  With a designed mission duration of ninety days, that was acceptable.  It also had accommodations for 2-4 live passengers and another dozen in frozen sleep, useful for the rescued or detained.  

 The ships were stationed forward, at planets and moons from Mercury to Saturn.  Initial plans for a series of asteroid stations and frigate squadrons fell victim to the budgetary axe, so coverage in the asteroid belt remained spotty, but thirty-four Byzantium class frigates patrolled the solar system during the first half of the twenty-second century.  

And the Byzantium class actually saw action, combating the earliest space pirates, if that's what you want to call those claim jumpers, drone jackers, smugglers  and thugs.  

--Darrow's Guide to Combat Spaceships: The First Interplanetary Age, Free Avon Press, 2505  

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