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"I realized there was a heavy-duty change coming in biology, and I could write a really compelling novel about catastrophic evolution, punctuated equilibrium."
- Greg Bear

Torch  
  The orifice from which issued the reaction mass of an atomic powered space craft.  

The Mayflower was shaped like a ball with a cone on one side—top shaped. The point of the cone was her jet—although Chief Engineer Ortega, who showed us around, called it her "torch."

If you count the torch end as her stern, then the round end, her bow, was where the control room was located... The torch and the whole power plant space were cut off from the rest of the ship by a radiation shield that ran right through the ship.

From Farmer in the Sky, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Scribners in 1950
Additional resources -

As far as I know, the first use of the word "torchship" occurred several years later, in Heinlein's 1953 story Sky Lift (see the entry for torchship).

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