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 Article: Interstellar Travel

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PostSubject: Article: Interstellar Travel   Article: Interstellar Travel I_icon_minitimeSun Mar 01, 2015 12:24 am

Interstellar Travel

Due to the vast distances involved in interstellar journeys, the concept of using conventional drives to get anywhere in a timely manner is absurd; a new method of transport is required. This problem was solved with the invention of the Faster-than-Light Drive, or "Jump Drive".

Jump Drives work by generating microscopic gravitational singularities within a magnetic confinement field, and then focusing the intense gravity fields in a short beam to "fold" spacetime. Once the two points coexist in the same area of space, the ship is sealed in a sphere of gravitons, disappears from one end and appears in the other; the singularity is subsequently destroyed. The visual effect of a jump is that of a literal "bubble" of warped light surrounding the ship, and then suddenly disappearing with it.

For the singularity to be formed, a very large amount of mass has to be compressed to occupy a very small amount of space; usually in the picometer range. This requires the generation of an intense electromagnetic field, and thus the use of a cyclotron. It takes time for the capacitors to charge and the particles to reach the needed velocities, and such a period is referred to as "spinning up". Heavier ships have a larger spinning up time because a denser graviton field is needed to seal themselves in the bubble. In addition, the process requires massive amounts of energy to be put into the compression and subsequent containment field; shield-capable ships have to lower their defenses before a jump to divert power to the FTL drive.

After a jump, an intense amount of radiation and heat is released as the singularity collapses. As such, a ship needs to let its drive cool down before it jumps again; one can bypass the safety systems, but many continuous jumps may destroy the drive, or the entire ship.

Another limiting factor is range. The energy required for a jump (in joules) is directly proportional to the distance (in meters). In addition, the calculations needed to be done get more complex as the distance increases: a jump inside the same system may take less than a few minutes, or even seconds to plot, but a jump to another system may take hours, or days. That is why ships often carry databases with pre-plotted jumps between known objects, that reduce the time to a couple of minutes. Another concern is drift; jumps get more inaccurate with range, and any jumps beyond a specific distance are extremely dangerous because the ship could end up jumping into an asteroid or star. Safe jumps are usually less than 1LY in distance, but the limit can be pushed up to 2LY in an emergency.

Finally, jumps in combat are tricky; with power and computing cycles being diverted to weapons and defenses, the capacitors of the FTL drive are given the short end of the stick. It could take many minutes to charge them to jump. One may ask, why not keep the drive spun up forever? Such a move would cause damage to the systems, and as such drives can't be kept on hot stand-by for more than half an hour before risking system integrity.
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