Faster Than Light Travel
Faster than light travel was the dream of many races from when they first wanted to visit other stars. Without FTL trips between even close systems take exceedingly long times. A ship which can reach half the speed of light (149,896.229 km/s) would take 5 years to reach a system 2.5 light years (158,100 AU) away and often slightly more as they would need to accelerate and decelerate from that speed.
FTL requires a speed greater than 173 AU per day (or 7.2 AU per hr) of travel and once it was achieved FTL drives where categorized by both AU and light years they could travel in a period of time. Many races encountered others already using drives before they could develop there own in the Distant History Era.
Warp Drive (Alcubierre drive)
Rather than exceeding the speed of light within its local frame of reference, a spacecraft would traverse distances by contracting space in front of it and expanding space behind it, resulting in effective faster-than-light travel. This drive uses a method for changing the geometry of space by creating a wave which would cause the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to contract, and the space behind it to expand. The ship would then ride this wave inside a region of flat space known as a warp bubble, and would not move within this bubble, but instead be carried along as the region itself moves due to the actions of the drive.
It is the most common FTL drive method and usually the first to be developed by a culture.
- Civilian drives require twice the distance from large mass objects as military models.
- They have a minimum ‘breaking distance’, should one want to abort FTL travel after being engaged. This distance is typically a few seconds in length. It also allows one to cover interplanetary distances in short order by canceling after achieving the minimal travel time.
Hyperspace Gate Network
Hyperspace Gates transition objects entering them into hyperspace, a different dimension in which the normal laws of the universe don’t apply. This includes the speed of light. Once inside they are guided to the gate in a direct path with, and paired to, their origin gate. One could think of this as being in a long ‘hyperspace tunnel’. A destination from all linked gates must be chosen before a vessel can enter.
For a hyperspace tunnel to form it requires a distance between gates of at least one light year. There is no known maximum range to the tunnels, though no known tunnel has been longer than 500 light years. Speed between gates is fixed at 1 light year per hour. The Gate rings themselves are also expensive to make, which typically is why their application is fairly limited. However craft not equipped with a FTL drive of their own can use this method to travel between systems.
- Each end point in the network requires a working gate for this system to work.
Quantum Jump Drive
A quantum Jump Drive effectively creates a wormhole (Einstein-Rosen Bridge), a topological feature of spacetime, centered around the spacecraft that acts as a “shortcut” through spacetime. In principal the drive uses a quantum effect to create a bubble and then opens a wormhole which the quantum bubble is slipped through without causing damage to the object inside. This takes a massive amount of energy and it tends to be disquieting on living creatures. The largest currently form-able quantum bubbles are 1 km in radius, which limits a ships maximum size.
Gathering the energy to jump takes roughly 24 hours (1 day) with this system. After gathering the energy one jump is possible of a length between 100 AU and 5 light years. After the transition occurs the crew will be temporarily disoriented and possibly nauseous. It will take another day for the energy to rebuild and a couple hours for the worst effects on the crew to pass. Another limit is that the drive fails to work outside of a star systems gravity well, and more they require certain ‘jump points’ which vary over time within the systems gravity well and so need to be calculated before one can jump.
Another issue with these drives is endurance. Research suggests that jumping every 24 hours for more than a couple of weeks straight would cause the drives to ‘overheat’ and increases the rate of drive failure. For this reason most people wait more than a day between jumps. No one has yet to ever have a ‘drive failure’ and return to tell the tale.
- Between jumps is a required 24 hour recharge time, during this period the system cannot be engaged.
- Both origin and arrival point must be a ‘jump points’ within a system.
Distribution and Use
The league would actually prove a means to spread faster Type 2, and eventually greater, drives around the galaxy. By the end of the League Era Type 7 drives were in use for military vessels and those freighters that could afford it and scientists were discussing Type 8 as being ‘soon’. Core worlds of the League also had a gate system for rapid transit.
In the Modern Era the fastest drives are Type 5 or 6 outside of a few select experimental Type 6 designs. These drives make it realistic again to travel from system to system within a reasonable frame of time. Gates are rare though the Commonwealth, Dominion, and a few advanced independent systems possess them. Quantum Jump drives were never developed during the League Era and add new options to space travel.
However even the most experimental of Type 8 designs could never be practically used to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other. The galaxy is roughly 120,000 light years across and even with a Type 8 drive would take over 120 years to get from one side to the other (over 300 with a Type 7). The closest dwarf galaxy is another 25,000 light years beyond that.
- The Type 1 FTL drive halves the time between systems from the speed of light.
- The Type 2 FTL drive is about three times as fast as a Type 1
- The Type 3 FTL drive is twice as fast as a Type 2
- The Type 4 FTL drive is slightly more than twice as fast as a Type 3
- The Type 5 FTL drive is twice as fast as a Type 4
- The Type 6 FTL drive is twice again as fast as a Type 5
- The Type 7 FTL drive is not quite twice the speed of a Type 6
- The Type 8 FTL drive is theoretical, though the League thought it was possible
- Type 1 Gates allow very quick travel between locations, but need a gate at both ends of a trip
- Type 1 Quantum Jump drives are quick compared to WD drives, but have side effects
|Method||Class||AU per unit of time||Light Years per Unit of time||Minimum travel||Minimum TL||Notes|
|WD||Type 1||15 AU per hr||1 ly per 176 days||1 AU||9||–|
|WD||Type 2||45 AU per hr||1 ly per 58.6 days||1 AU||9||–|
|WD||Type 3||1.5 AU per min||1 ly per month||1 AU||10||–|
|WD||Type 4||3.14 AU per min||1 ly per 14 days||1 AU||10||–|
|WD||Type 5||6.27 AU per min||1 ly per week||10 AU||11||–|
|WD||Type 6||0.73 AU per sec||1 ly per day||10 AU||11||–|
|WD||Type 7||1 AU per sec||1 ly per 17.6 hours||20 AU||12||–|
|WD||Type 8||2 AU per sec||1 ly per 8.8 hours||20 AU||NA||–|
|Gate||Type 1G||–||1 ly per hour||1 ly||11||Requires Gate|
|QJ||Type 1J||–||5 ly per jump||100 AU||11||1 day recharge/jump|