Science Fiction Art by David C. Mueller / dcmstarships

Copyright 2019 – No part of this blog may be used without the permission of the artist.

Guide to Human Speculative Star-Faring Technology

INTRODUCTION

In presenting a variety of abilities for my spaceships, I do not focus much on the mechanics of the star-faring technology that would be required to make my spaceship designs work. Rather, I employ pseudo-technological terms that suggest the function of devices used by my ships as they perform their fictional missions. The terms listed below and their definitions are inspired by numerous science fictions stories and role-playing games. Those interested in my speculations on what sort of technologies may be used for star-faring may wish to read the article So You Want to Be a Speculative Spaceship Designer?

TECHNOLOGY LEVEL DEFINITIONS

I enjoy working over a wide spectrum of star-faring technology levels and have created nine distinct levels for my speculative spaceship designs. These levels are defined primarily by how fast vessels can travel:

Tech Level 1 – Basic Sublight: Slower-than-light spaceships that take months to years to travel throughout our solar system. Such technology is currently in available and awaits our courage and commitment to bring it into use.

Tech Level 2 – Intermediate Sublight: Slower-than-light spaceships that take weeks to months to travel throughout our solar system. Such technology may be within our grasp within a century.

Tech Level 3 – Advanced Sublight: Slower-than-light spaceships that are able to travel to nearby star systems over a period of decades. Such technology may be within our grasp within a few centuries.

Tech Level 4 – Basic Faster-Than-Light 1: Starships that can travel up to 0.1 light year per day taking months to traverse the approximately five light years that separate star systems on our part of the Milky Way galaxy. Literary and visual science fiction suggest that humans may have such starships in a century or so.

Tech Level 5 – Basic Faster-Than-Light 2: Starships that can travel up to 1 light year per day taking from weeks to just days to traverse the approximately five light years that separate star systems on our part of the Milky Way galaxy. Literary and visual science fiction suggest that humans may have such starships in a century or so.

Tech Level 6 – Intermediate Faster-Than-Light 1: Starships that can travel up to 10 light years per day taking from days to just hours to traverse the approximately five light years that separate star systems on our part of the Milky Way galaxy. Literary and visual science fiction suggest that humans may have such starships in perhaps two to five centuries from the present.

Tech Level 7 – Intermediate Faster-Than-Light 2: Starships that can travel up to 100 light years per day taking just a few hours to traverse the approximately five light years that separate star systems on our part of the Milky Way galaxy. Literary and visual science fiction suggest that humans may have such starships in perhaps five to ten centuries from the present.

Tech Level 8 – Advanced Faster-Than-Light 1: Starships that can travel up to 1000 light years per day taking just a few minutes to traverse the approximately five light years that separate star systems on our part of the Milky Way galaxy. Literary and visual science fiction suggests that humans may have such starships in perhaps one to five millennia from the present.

Tech Level 9 – Advanced Faster-Than-Light 2: Starships that can travel up to 10,000 light years per day taking just seconds to traverse the approximately five light years that separate star systems on our part of the Milky Way galaxy. Literary and visual science fiction suggests that humans may have such starships in perhaps five to ten millennia from the present.

ELEMENTS OF HUMAN STAR-FARING TECHNOLOGY

Life Support – Most life support systems of human starships are based on a combination of natural and genetically engineered biological components and processes with mechanical components and processes.  The biological components and processes are used primarily for atmosphere generation and production of foodstuffs.  One of the major biological components is the variety of plant life that is seen aboard all Human starships.  Mechanical components and processes are used to circulate the atmosphere throughout a vessel as well as maintain the temperature and pressure needed to keep the atmosphere viable.  Food preparation and distribution is also done via machinery.  A similar combination of biological and mechanical processes is used to manufacture and recycle the plethora of items needed aboard a starship such as equipment and clothing.

Artificial Life – As Human starships rise in star-faring technology, they are increasingly dependent upon artificial life to help them function.  Many human vessels use sentient computer systems for overall ship control in addition to non-sentient computer systems that govern most ship’s sub-systems.  Non-sentient robots, perform most of the repetitive and dangerous tasks aboard space vessels.  Beside these human scale forms of artificial life, there are the genetically engineered microorganisms and micro-machines that are integral components of such varied ship systems as life support, food production, fabrication, materials recycling and reclamation, internal and external structural components, as well as a variety of medical and scientific instruments.

Artificial Gravity Generation – All Human starships at Tech Level 4 or above are equipped with artificial gravity generators. These devices create artificial gravity fields within a ship hull or portion of a hull.  They are usually located in several locations on a starship and are also used to create inertia dampening fields.  The use of a number of gravity generators aboard a vessel often results in different directions being used as “down” in different parts of the ship.  

Hull Construction – Tech Levels 1 thru 3 use hull made from are metal spaceframes clad in metal plating. At Levels 4 thru 6, the metal spaceframes are clad in metallic-ceramic hull plating. For Tech Level 7 vessels, the metal spaceframes are clad in a type of hull plating that consists in part of artificial, silicon-based life-forms that are self repairing material and combine the properties of metal and ceramic. Tech 7 hull plating requires less internal bracing than those of lower tech levels, but they require a constant low level energy input to keep their shape. At Tech Levels 8 and 9, the metal spaceframe and plating are replaced by thin shells made of super-advanced self-repairing materials akin to those used for the plating Tech Level 7 ships. Like Tech Level 7 plating, Tech Level 8 and 9 hulls require a constant energy input to keep their shape.

Power Generation -Tech Levels 1 and 2 use hydrogen power cells, nuclear fission reactors, and nuclear fusion reactors to generate power. Tech Levels 3 thru 6 use advanced fusion reactors, matter/anti-matter reactors, or more exotic mass / energy conversion technology. Tech Level 7 uses mass energy converters and dark matter reactors. Tech Levels 8 and 9 use energy extracted from the ever-present quantum foam that underlies the structure of space-time.

Matter Fuel Collection – Tech Levels 1 and 2 are unable to refuel while in flight and thus must be fueled before each mission. Tech Levels 3 thru 6 employ matter intakes that use magnetic fields to scoop up interstellar gas and dust and compress the material the use as fuel.  Matter intakes can also draw material out of the atmosphere of a gas giant. Tech Level 7 uses dark matter collectors and mass-energy intakes. A Mass-energy intake combines a matter intake with the advanced energy absorber mentioned below. Tech Levels 8 and 9 abandon the need for matter fuel collection altogether.

Energy Collection – Tech Levels 1 and 2 use basic solar arrays. Tech Levels 3 thru 5 use advanced solar arrays that can efficiently collect large amounts of energy when in close orbit around a star. Tech Levels 6 and 7 use the more advanced energy absorber that can efficiently collect large amounts of energy from such locales as the inner regions of star systems, nearby high-energy interstellar phenomena, and even in orbit of gas giant planets. Tech Levels 8 and 9 use a device that extracts energy directly from quantum foam as mentioned above.

Slower-Than-Light Propulsion – Tech Levels 1 and 2 use chemical and nuclear powered engines. Tech Levels 3 thru 5 use advanced fusion engines. Tech Level 6 uses advanced fusion engines and basic gravitic engines. Such early gravitic engines use beams of artificial gravity to pull a vessel towards objects more massive than itself at faster speeds than natural gravity alone can produce. They also can create some thrust independent of other objects. Gravitic engines are entirely energy driven with no need for fuel as a reactant.  Early gravitic engines are capable of sublight speeds up to 0.10c. Tech Level 7 uses intermediate gravitic engines that are less dependent on more massive objects and are capable of sublight speeds up to 0.25c. Tech Levels 8 and 9 use advanced gravitic engines and space-fold initiator technology described below.

Faster-Than-Light Propulsion – Tech Levels 1 thru 3 are incapable of faster-than-light travel. Tech Levels 4 thru 7 use a device that creates a tunnel of warped space through which a vessel travels at faster-than-light speeds. The performance of the warp-tunnel generator is based on the following factors:

1) The accuracy of the direction that the tunnel of warped space is pointed in: improves at higher tech levels

2) The length of the tunnel of warped space: ranges from fractions of a light year at lower tech levels to tens of light years at higher tech levels

3) The amount of time a vessel can spend inside the tunnel of warped space the tunnel collapses: ranges from seconds at lower tech levels to hours at higher tech levels

4) The time it takes to recharge the warp-tunnel generator: ranges from days to hours depending on the tech level and available energy sources in the locale where a vessel generates the tunnel of warped space. Higher tech level ships are capable of charging up all their warp-tunnel generators at once and then using them in succession to cut down time between uses of the generators.

5) The amount of time required for navigational purposes before and after transiting through the tunnel of warped space: ranges from hours at lower tech levels to minutes at higher tech levels

6) The distance a vessel must be from a massive object like a planet or star before using the warp-tunnel generator: ranges from the outer regions of a star system at lower tech levels to between planetary orbits in the inner regions of a star system at higher tech levels.

Tech Levels 8 and 9 use a device that works on different cosmological principles than the warp-tunnel generator.  It creates a virtual fold in space between the ship’s current location and its target location.  Transition through a space fold is almost instantaneous and the navigation time following the space fold is usually measured in seconds.  Space folds can be performed in rapid succession if the ship has enough power reserves.  The distance in real space that can be bypassed by the space fold initiator is dependent upon how much power can be shunted into the device.  The amount of power needed to operate a space fold initiator is much more than that required for a warp-tunnel generator.  Only ships capable of extracting energy from quantum foam can generate the magnitude of energy needed to create a space fold.  A space fold initiator is capable of transiting a vessel orbiting a star or planet directly into orbit of another star or planet.  It can also transport a vessel to an underground cavern or underwater location.

Faster-Than-Light Communications -Tech Levels 4 thru 7 use faster than light particles called tachyons to transmit messages at faster-than-light speeds. This transmitter is capable of transmitting messages from hundreds of light years a day at lower tech levels to to thousands of light years per day at higher tech levels.  It is dependent upon a network of relay stations with the distance between relays directly affecting transmission speed. Tech Levels 8 and 9 use a device that sends a message through a space fold. It is capable of almost instantaneous transmission of messages over large interstellar distances and does not require a network of relay stations.  However, it requires much more power to use than tachyon transmission technology. Only ships capable of extracting energy from quantum foam can generate the magnitude of energy needed to send messages via space fold. 

Teleportation Systems – The ability to teleport life forms only exists in the Deep Space Exploration Group fictional setting. At Tech Levels 6, the teleporter is able to transport life forms from one teleporter unit to another at a maximum distance of a few thousand kilometers. At Tech Level 7, the teleportation range increases to tens of thouands of kilometers between teleporter stations. At both tech levels, the teleporter cannot be used when a vessel has engaged its faster-than-light or energy screen systems.

Defensive Systems – There are three types of defensive systems outfitted on Human starships. One system deflects dust and small asteroids from a vessel’s flight path and is used primarily as a navigational tool. The second uses an energy field to screen a vessel from high-energy emissions such as cosmic rays and weapons fire from an enemy ship. The third shrouds a vessel from the sensor systems of less advanced sentient species.

Tech Level 1 has no navigational deflectors. Tech Levels 2 and 3 use a primitive device that projects a magnetic field ahead of a vessel. Tech Levels 4 thru 7 use a more sophisticated deflector that pushes objects away from a vessel’s flight path using artificial gravity beams.  The size of objects that can be moved increases as the tech level increases. Tech Levels 8 and 9 generate energy fields strong enough to withstand most common navigational hazards.

Tech Levels 1 and 2 have no energy-based screens. Tech Levels 3 thru 5 use magnetic repulsion field generators to polarize hull plating providing a basic level of protection. The repulsion field can deflect incoming ordnance to some degree. It is useless as a defense against beam weapons. Tech Levels 6 and 7 use energy screen generators that can deflect a variety of high energy sources as well as provide a barrier to small objects such as attacking craft and ordnance. Tech Level 7 adds the ability to allow a vessel to briefly pass through high energy plasma and similar phenomena. Tech Levels 8 and 9 use phase shifting energy shell generators that produce fields strong enough to withstand most high energy sources as well as providing vessels the ability to pass through solid objects including planetary cores and stellar atmospheres. Employing the phase-shifting function requires tremendous energy output to operate and can be used for only short periods of time. Only ships capable of extracting energy from quantum foam can generate the magnitude of energy needed to operate phase-shifting energy shells.

Tech Levels 1 thru 3 have no stealth abilities. Tech Levels 4 thru 6 have stealth abilities limited to hiding a vessel from the sensor systems of Tech Level 3 and below. Tech Levels 7 thru 9 use a stealth field projector that not only hides a vessel from sentient species at more primitive star-faring technology levels, but also partially veils a vessel from those at the same tech level. A stealth field projector operates in two ways. It surrounds a vessel in an ovoid field that mimics its surroundings and projects seemingly solid holograms of the ship up to thousands of kilometers from the actual vessel.  At Tech Level 7, the stealth field projector can only be used for short periods of time due to its high energy demands. Tech Levels 8 and 9 are not bound by this since they have a virtually infinite supply of energy via quantum foam extraction.

Weapons Systems

Tech Level 5

Missile/Torpedo Launcher – fires chemically fueled, electronically guided large rockets at a target. Warheads types include conventional high-explosives, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and anti-matter charges. It is used as a medium to long range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

Rail Cannon – fires large caliber ordnance at a target using an electromagnetic accelerator. It is used as a short to medium range weapon of heavy strength.

Kinetic Gun – fires medium caliber ordnance at a target. It is used as a short to medium range weapon of medium strength.

Point Defense Gun – fires a rapid stream of small caliber ordnance at a target. It is used as a short range weapon most effective when used against small targets like smallcraft, missiles, and torpedoes.

Magnetic Ram – fires a ball of magnetic force at a target. The magnetic fist slams into the target like wrecking balls. The magnetic ram is used as a short to medium range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

Tech Level 6

Plasma Bolt Launcher – fires concentrated balls of white-hot plasma at a target.  It is a line of sight weapon that cannot track targets.  It is used as a medium to long range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

Anti-Matter Torpedo Launcher – fires a small torpedo propelled by a gravitic engine at a target. The torpedo can track targets and has an anti-matter warhead. It is used as a medium to long range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

Gravitic Oscillator / Vibration Beam Emitter – fires a stream of rapidly alternating highly energized gravitons at a target. The gravitons shake the target at a variety of force levels varying from moderate to severe. The gravitic oscillator is used as a short to medium range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

Phased Energy Beam Emitter / Energy Beam Projector – fires a phased energy beam at a target. It is used as a short to medium range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

Tech Level 7

Directed Plasma Bolt Launcher – fires concentrated balls of white-hot plasma at a target.  The plasma bolts are directed by gravity beams and are able to track targets to some extent. The directed plasma bolt launcher is used as a medium to long range weapon of medium to heavy strength. 

Phased Energy Beam Emitter / Energy Beam Projector – more powerful version of the Tech Level 6 weapon with a longer range as well.Tech Level 8

Quantum Bulb Distributor – fires concentrated balls of quantum flux / zero-point energy at a target. The quantum bulbs are transported to or inside the target be the space fold initiator of the firing vessel.  It is used as a medium to long range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

Space-Time Disruptor Beam – fires an energy beam that disrupts space-time around a target. When used at low power, this device disorients a target vessel without causing damage. When used at high power, this device destroys a target vessel by severely distorting the space-time around. The space-time disruptor beam is used as a short to medium range weapon of medium to heavy strength.

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