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 experts but difficult for laypeople to grasp, but usually involves harnessing the properties of naturally-occurring subspace particles to teleport from one point to another. Regions of space with high subspace density are much easier and safer to traverse than the "dark patches" of the galaxy and the intergalactic void. While forms of FTL travel vary, all require some amount of phoron as fuel.

Function of the Bluespace Drive

Subspace Flux Drive

By encapsulating its subject in a protective field and then using quantum phenomena to exploit the properties of suitable subspace particles, subspace flux drives allow for rapid travel across phenomenal distances until the energies involved disintegrate the protective field but (hopefully) not the subject. Each jump requires a predetermined amount of energy, phoron, and "charge time" as the drive waits to encounter enough subspace particles 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 naturally-occurring subspace particles 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.

Subspace flux drives are the first FTL drives to be developed and remain the most common form of FTL travel throughout settled space. Resultingly, most of settled space has been shaped by proximity of stable subspace particle streams much in the way early civilizations were often shaped by proximity of rivers for more efficient transport. Subspace flux drives remain the most fuel and energy efficient form of FTL travel at the cost of only functioning in certain regions of space.

Phoron Compression Drive

Operating on the same principle as subspace flux drives, phoron compression drives opt to generate their own subspace particles through significantly higher phoron consumption. Requiring only a major gravity well to operate (such as that of a star), phoron compression drives allow travel through regions of low subspace particle density without risk of being stranded as long as the ship possesses phoron. A major drawback is a phoron compression drive takes longer to charge than subspace flux drives and can only jump between neighboring systems without fuel costs becoming infeasible. Travel between distant regions of space can take months rather than weeks; despite such the phoron compression drive remains the only method of reliably navigating regions of dead space.

Phoron compression drives have been available commercially for only around a century. Most ships with a compression drive utilize it as a backup form of transport should a navigation error result in stranding or for travel within a star system with irregularities in subspace particle density. Generally, only exploration class vessels rely mostly on phoron compression drives and typically only when said vessels specialize in travel through dead space.

Bluespace Warpgates

The cutting edge of bluespace travel would be bluespace warpgates, massive structures designed for rapid travel across large swathes of space. Incredibly costly and slow to construct, warpgates allow travel between linked warpgates with extreme speed and fuel efficiency. Warpgates function by creating stable openings to bluespace with most FTL construction constructed just inside to circumvent the limitations of realspace. Extremely hazardous to all forms of matter if not properly maintained, warpgates cut weeks of travel into days without any concern for the conditions of realspace between between the warpgates.

Currently bluespace warpgates can only be constructed in close orbit of massive (e.g. supernova-generated) singularities, greatly limiting the potential sites for warpgate construction (not due just to the relative rarity of black holes but the need for said black holes to be in regions of high subspace particle density). Aside from extreme cost and decades-long construction times, warpgates must be constructed with their bluespace portions in near perfect alignment with preexisting warpgates or else risk lethally stranding travelers within bluespace. Three public warpgates exist within SolGov space with plans to construct a fourth near the [Vir] system.

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 protected from 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 free-form teleporters are based around this principle, but most exceptions 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 occasionally 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 mega-liner 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 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 inhabited colony. Small superluminal shuttles are the primary way for people to move between planets and orbital 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, 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 subspace particle gradients are factored into transit time. The fastest routes tend not to approximate a straight line, but instead detour back to the nearest stable subspace particle stream where transit is far faster and less dangerous. This simple economic fact is the root cause of much of humanity's socioeconomic divide throughout SolGov space.

The obvious economic value of waypoints creates and sustains innumerable small colonies situated between notable worlds. Most of these stations are established around a star in between the two already-settled stars, as stars are relatively abundant and a suitable 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 as 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 considered "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 heavily irradiate or result in the outer layers of a subject being stripped away. 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, subspace particle density can change drastically given relatively 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 prevalent 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 licensing 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 licensing, where generally only established TSCs could afford to buy a new spacecraft, and fairly open licensing 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 mega-liners to transport the personal shuttles of rich executives from system to system.