FTL Travel

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The power-hungry bluespace phenomenon, in the form of teleporting gateways and more common FTL spacecraft, is the thread that binds together the scattered interstellar colonies of SolGov and her neighbors. The actual mechanism of action for bluespace transit is well-understood by human experts but difficult for laypeople to grasp, but involve harnessing the superluminal speeds of naturally-occuring tachyon particles to teleport from one point to another. Regions of space with high tachyon density, such as the Almach Stream or the Sagittarius Heights, are much easier and safer to traverse than the "dark patches" of the Curtain, the Rarkajar Rift, and the intergalactic void.

Function of the Bluespace Drive

By encapsulating its subject in a protective field and then using quantum phenomena to "hitch a ride" on a cluster of suitible tachyons, bluespace drives allow for phenomenal distances to be crossed in an instant, until the energies involved disintigrate the protective field but (hopefully) not the subject. Each jump requires a predetermined amount of energy and "charge time" as the drive waits to encounter enough tachyons of a given energy and vector. Energy consumption and charge time scale up exponentially, so small jumps are more economical than longer jumps, but are slower and more dangerous in regions of space where being "stuck" without access to energetic tachyons is a serious possibility. A typical in-system jump consumes a fairly large amount of electrical energy but is still feasible with solid-phoron engines. Jumps between stars are usually much longer and require a large supermatter or fusion reactor just to power the drive.

Ways to Travel

Most FTL drives are mounted on ships, to shelter their passengers from the void of space during drive charges and to provide sufficient power for long voyages. Ships are also significantly more durable to drive failures that irradiate or shred the outer few atoms of the subject. If a jump or series of jumps can be plotted to avoid an environment that would kill an unprotected person, it is possible to move passengers with a stationary bluespace drive. Both point-to-point gateways and other, more freeform teleporters are based around this principle, but for most applications are more expensive or more risky than taking a superluminal shuttle.

Bluespace travel is, somewhat confusingly, faster for larger ships. While larger objects do require more energy to travel, they can mount much larger generators and capacitors which allows faster routes to be plotted. They are also capable of mounting life support and entertainment for their crew. This means that large ships are effectively the only economical option for transit between two star systems. Small ships can occationally be used, as is the case with automated survey drones, but gateways are simply too expensive for travel between systems even with state-of-the-art drives.

While the difference in travel times between a state-of-the-art megaliner and a tiny shuttle could be the difference between days and years at interstellar distances, within a system the difference is much smaller. For in-system travel, shuttles dominate because they are significantly cheaper to produce with less specialized infrastructure, and because they can handle frequent changes in gravity in a way that massive colony-ships simply cannot. Most systems have at least one major spaceport in orbit around either the primary star or the most populated planet, with older systems having several of various sizes. Spaceports handle the transfer of cargo and passengers from shuttles to interstellar ships and back again, and as such tend to be large, sophisticated, and well-populated. For some systems, freight handling is their only major industry and the spaceport is the only habitated colony. Small superluminal shuttles are the primary way for people to move between planets and obital stations and between stations in the same neighborhood, though more developed systems like Sol often have ground-to-space gateway systems.


Logistics

Geometrically, the shortest and most efficient route between two points in space remains a straight line all else remaining equal. However, because a significant amount of time is spent in transit, direct routes with no stopovers quickly run into logistical problems. While traveling from Vir to Centauri to Sol is a day or so slower than traveling from Vir directly to Sol, the direct route requires far more space for carrying provisions instead of cargo. In addition to allowing smaller, cheaper vessels to make long trips, the presence of waypoints allows for passengers and cargo to be dropped off and replaced with those from the waypoint if economical, and allows crew and passengers alike a chance to leave the confines of their ship and relax for a while.

Travel becomes increasingly nonlinear once tachyon gradients are factored into transit time. The fastest routes from the Bowl to the Crypt do not approximate a straight line, but instead detour back to the Almach Stream, where transit is far faster and less dangerous. This simple economic fact is the root cause of much of humanity's socioeconomic divide, including most prominantly the independent transhuman counterculture of the Almach Rim.

The obvious economic value of waypoints creates and sustains innumerable small colonies situated between notable worlds, such as Saint Columbia in the upstream Crescent and Jahan's Post in the coreward Crypt. Most of these stations are established around a star in between the two already-settled stars, as stars are reletively abundant and a suitble candidate can usually be found. There are some notable exceptions where these waystations are established independent from any star, though usually economic concerns render these proposals moot or bankrupt rather quickly, and even normal waypoint systems are prone to extreme economic depression when trade stops flowing or finds a more profitable route.

Dangers

While modern navigation is advanced enough to be concidered "safe" by most people, it is not without significant dangers. Miscalculated jumps that take a ship within a solid body are catastrophically damaging, as both objects are compressed to fit within the same space. Miscalibrated shielding can result in the outer layers of a subject being stripped from them and left at the starting point or can heavily irradiate them. These sorts of error are very rare when using standard drives, but experimental or bleeding-edge drives (such as the Nanotrasen teleporter) present a much more serious chance of death by machine error.

More common than machine errors are navigational errors. Outside of particularly stable regions like the Almach Stream, the Heights, or Skrell space, tachyon density can change drastically given reletitively minor changes in destination. Because of the astounding size of 3-d space, mapping every single AU in between two stars is practically impossible. Where no known safe paths exist, explorers risk stranding themselves in pockets of "dead space" where their FTL drives function poorly, or not at all. Forced to coast by on normal propulsion, such ships become derelicts rather quickly if there are no other ships close enough to hear their distress cries. Dead space is common in the Rarkajar Rift and is believed to be fairly prevelent in certain regions of Moghes territory.

Regulations

See Ship Naming.

Spacecraft registration has been a contentious issue since the Office of Transit was created early in SolGov's history. The destructive potential of even a small spacecraft encourages strict registration, but the Free Traders and other independent spacemen have played an important role in settling the frontier and promoting national unity and would be crippled by expensive liscencing fees. The issue is further complicated by the fact that rogue states and criminal organizations can, relatively easily, produce their own spacecraft outside of the beaten path, and that these vessels sometimes enter the civilian economy through corrupt officials in many minor colonies. Sol has alternated between periods of restrictive liscencing, where generally only established TSCs could afford to buy a new spacecraft, and fairly open licencing where only a cursory background check is required. It is presently in a more restrictive period following fears of terror attacks following the Unathi Wars (the Lizard Riots and the actions of Boiling Point being the most notable) and most Free Traders are the second or third generation to hold their ship. Smaller shuttlecraft can be much more easily purchased and have lead to a rise of carrier megaliners to transport the personal shuttles of rich executives from system to system.


Times

As a rule of thumb, direct interstellar flights take about a week, and transit costs range from a half-week's wages to two week's wages. These values rise dramatically when traveling to remote locales like Nyx or Rarkajar and drop when following the Almach Stream. In-system transit is much cheaper, usually taking less than an hour and costing perhaps a dozen thalers.


Journey Method Time Cost
Check-in and Security Spaceport What feels like eternity Sanity
Earth-like world to orbit (Earth, Sif) Shuttlecraft 2 hours Cheap
Mars-like world to orbit Vertical shuttle 30 minutes Cheap
Earth-like world re-entry Shuttlecraft 1 hour Cheap
Mars-like world re-entry Vertical lander 20 minutes Cheap
In-system interplanetary transit Gateway Instant Expensive and uncommon
In-system interplanetary transit Shuttle Instant + docking, un-docking, etc. Relatively cheap
Sol (orbits in) <-> Vir (orbits in) Interstellar Commercial Flight ~2 days, 18 hours Several thousand Thaler
Sol (orbits in) <-> Nyx (orbits in) Interstellar Commercial Flight ~8 days, 18 hours Many thousand Thaler