Space Era Technology

Write ups for technology from the Space Era. There is additional information on space ships and colonies.

Starship Technology

Power Plant

Modern spaceships primarily rely on advanced light-weight Tokamak fusion reactors. These provide high density power generation, but do require deuterium fuel. Most ships also carry advanced solar panels to provide supplemental or emergency power. Colonies generally reverse this arrangement, with vast solar farms to provide primary power and fusion reactors for heavy requirements and emergencies. Deep space research vessels and unmanned probes also rely on solar power.

Craft too small for traditional Tokamak reactors rely on one of three alternative power sources. Modern high density batteries are sufficient for most applications, though they do require an outside source for regular charges. Civilian singleships and mecha, as well as both civilian and military ground vehicles and light aircraft, use high density batteries. For military mecha and singleships, as well as some deep space probes and high-performance civilian craft, radioisotope batteries provide high energy density for extremely long periods, though because of their radioactive nature they are highly regulated. The final, and most advanced, option for small craft are fusion batteries, also sometimes called kick-start reactors. These use short-live but extremely high energy fusion reactions started by a large energy input from an external source. Though a few experimental singleships, probes, and mecha use fusion batteries, their primary use is in torpedoes.

Prior to the development of reliable light-weight fusion reactors, spaceships used Generation IV and higher fission reactors for power. Though these reactors provide even higher energy density than fusion power, they are very poorly regarded by the public and produce difficult to handle waste. As a result, they have been banned for over a century, with the last few grandfathered-in exceptions retired decades ago. However, some proponents still argue for their return, suggesting that modern designs have no danger of meltdown and create very little waste. They have yet to make any headway with these contentions.

Propulsion & Maneuver

With the widespread use of fusion power, the primary form of drive for large spaceships, especially military vessels, is the fusion rocket. These engines use an energetic fusion reaction, often ported directly from the reactor, to provide thrust. They have a very high acceleration rate, but use a relatively high amount of fuel. Torpedoes also use fusion rockets. Military vessels commonly use fusion rockets for maneuvering thrusters, alongside ion thrusters.

Many civilian vessels, especially cargo carriers, and a small number of high-endurance military craft, also carry ion drives, which provide low acceleration but use very little fuel. These vessels use fusion rockets for maneuver and to stop or start, and the ion drives for cruising. Deep space probes and research vessels sometimes carry only ion drives in order to save weight on fuel. Ion thrusters are also commonly used on all large spacecraft for maneuvering.

For ships that do not carry fusion reactors, ion drives are common, as are VASIMR drives, which use outside power to produce thrust in a fashion similar to a fusion rocket. Only in small vessels is this process efficient enough to see modern use, though some large fission powered vessels relied upon it as well.

Chemical rockets, both solid and liquid fueled, are still used in some applications despite their low efficiency, heavy fuel needs, and antiquity. They are primarily seen on small short-range utility craft or in the maneuvering thrusters of small civilian ships. Some large civilian vessels, particular passenger craft, also have chemical thrusters for emergencies.

The most exotic form of “drive” is the solar sail, which needs no fuel but requires an extremely large fragile structure and generally has low acceleration and poor maneuverability. They are really only used by deep space probes, though some long range military and civilian vessels carry them for emergency use, and they have occasionally been used to adjust the positioning of colonies.

In older eras, several fission-based drives, including direct fission rockets, fission-electric rockets, and radioisotope rockets were used, with the former two on larger vessels and the latter in singlecraft. The fear of fission power and radioactivity lead to these drives being banned even before fission reactors.

Radiation Shielding

One of the keys to human inhabitation in deep space is protection from radiation. The most basic protective measure is to use radiation resistant materials, which are liberally applied in the construction of every station, ship, and even space suits.

The most effective defense, however, is a technological adaptation of the light screen ability possessed by some pokémon. The Artificial Light Screen Effect Generator (ALSEG) is among the most important human inventions in recorded history. ALSEGs cannot - yet - project independent light screens the way pokémon can. They function in concert with embedded circuitry in walls and windows to create a field-effect co-terminus with the structure itself. Combined with the right materials, ALSEGs reduce radiation doses even for deep space workers to levels similar to those of nuclear engineers on Earth. Improvements in anti-radiation and radiation sickness treatments provide the final piece to convert a hostile environment into one suited for human life.

ALSEGs provide virtually no additional protection against directed energy weapons, and in especially harsh radiation environments can be overwhelmed.

Weaponry

Space based weaponry has gone through many phases in the past two hundred years. Modern ships use a mix of directed energy and magnetically driven kinetic weapons, with fusion driven torpedoes providing indirect fire capability. In prior eras, these were complemented by chemically driven guided missiles and even chemical propellant kinetic weapons.

Kinetic Weapons

Any weapon that fires some form of solid, massive projectile that does not contain a warhead.

Flak Cannon

These projectile weapons used chemical propellant. Even in the earliest days no vessel used these as primary armament, relegating them to an anti-missile point defense role. Though firearms remain common for personal use, no vessel has carried their larger brethren in over 150 years.

Flak Coilgun

The first magnetically driven projectile weapon to see widespread use, flak coilguns fire hundreds or even thousands of tiny metal spheres in order to take out incoming missiles or torpedoes and even singlecraft. For many decades they were the primary point defense armament of spaceships. Though laser systems have begun to displace them, most military ships still carry a number of flak coilguns as supplemental armament.

Railguns

These larger magnetic projectile weapons get their name from the use of long twin rails of electromagnets to accelerate ferro-ceramic slugs to extremely high speeds. These slugs are dense, inert masses but their velocity and mass gives them destructive potential to rival even nuclear explosives. Railguns also have extremely good armor-penetration abilities and long range. However, their ammunition is fairly heavy. Since once fired a railgun projectile goes until it hits something, whether it’s a minute or ten thousand years later, there is some reluctance to use them except with the best firing solutions.

Mass Driver

Essentially a very large railgun used in civilian applications to launch cargo without the use of rockets, mass drivers can be used as weapons in an emergency. They tend to be relatively inefficient and difficult to aim compared to military railguns. Carrier spaceships use mass drivers to launch singleships and mecha.

Impactors

Also called rocks or rods from god, impactors are essentially oversized railgun projectiles. These projectiles are used for strikes on stationary targets from extreme long range. Cheap disposable weapons, impactors use simple ion drive units to accelerate to high speeds over long distances, or are simply dropped into a gravity well when used against planet based targets. In fact, literal rocks or other space debris can be improvised into impactors. Purpose built impactors are considered weapons of mass destruction and are banned by the same treaties that eliminated nuclear explosives.

Directed Energy

This class of weapon does not use solid projectiles, instead generating high-energy particles to fire at enemies.

Plasma Pulse Cannon

The workhorse of modern military starships, plasma pulse cannons (PPCs) use powerful electromagnets to direct high energy plasmas produced by fusion reactors. These are medium range weapons and fire discrete amounts, or pulses, of plasma energy. Though they do not penetrate armor as well as railguns, PPCs are preferred because the pulses can, with careful application of magnetic fields, be made follow somewhat non-linear paths, including tight spirals or very gentle parabolic arcs. Additionally, the plasma dissipates over time, so a missed shot is not a danger to strike an unintended target far in the future. Though PPCs technically need something to make plasma from, in practical terms they can fire indefinitely, as a ship would run out of fuel for its reactors long before it exhausted its ability to fire PPCs.

Particle Beam Projector

The most powerful weapon carried by modern ships, particle beam projectors (PBPs, aka proton cannons, aka lightning guns) use electromagnets and electrostatic lenses to direct accelerated streams of charged particles moving at near the speed of light. Though considered an energy weapon since it does not use actual projectiles, it is in fact the kinetic energy of these extremely fast particles that causes damage. The transfer of energy occurs so rapidly that the surface layers of the target actually explode as they superheat due to the excitation of their component atoms. The power demands of these weapons are so gargantuan that only the biggest capital ships carry them, and they remain somewhat unreliable. All developed PBPs use protons, hence the alternative name of proton cannon, though some experiments with electron, positron, and even neutron based PBPs have been done. Since the process is roughly analogous to natural lightning some also refer to them as lightning guns, a nickname greatly disliked by military personnel.

Lasers

Despite the imaginings of the public and science fiction authors, lasers have proven to be very poor military weapons. While there would be great advantages to a light-speed weapon, lasers have extremely high energy demands and are difficult to focus properly at the sizes needed for weapons that cannot be defeated by easy to apply reflective or absorbent coatings. Only in anti-missile/torpedo point defense have lasers proven militarily effective, as these targets are thin-skinned but extremely fast and maneuverable. High energy laser clusters (HELCs) are short-range and pack just enough punch to take out a torpedo, and are capable of switching between two or three wavelengths quickly to counteract passive defenses. They remain a new and unproven technology, and thus are backed up with the venerable flak coilgun on most ships.

Indirect Fire

Kinetic and directed energy weapons have one major drawback – they are direct fire only, incapable of maneuvering around intervening obstacles or seeking out weak-points without maneuvering the entire platform they are based on. Even PPCs can deviate only very slightly from a purely linear path. To supplement these weapons, missiles and torpedoes have been used to offer an indirect fire option.

Missiles

Guided missiles tend to be relatively small and use chemical rockets for thrust and maneuver, limiting their range but making them extremely fast. However, modern electronic warfare technology has rendered them largely obsolete. In order to defeat EW/ECW, missiles needed to carry their own EW/ECW suites and the batteries to power them, which required they carry a smaller warhead payload, or become larger, slower, or shorter ranged. The original multi-purpose missiles were superseded by larger cruise (long range, low speed) and assault (short range, high speed) missiles for use against capital ships. Multi-purpose missiles became simply anti-fighter weapons. Eventually the cruise missiles were replaced with the extremely large shipkiller missiles, and assault missiles took over the anti-fighter role. Even counter-missiles, originally very small high-speed missiles that often did not even carry warheads, ballooned in size until they were as big as the original multi-purpose missiles. By the halfway point of the second century of the space era, missiles were phased out from front-line duty.

Torpedoes

The development of the fusion battery provided a new course for indirect fire weapons. These reactors provided ample energy for electronic warfare and also directly powered a fusion rocket for acceleration and maneuver, allowing a smaller weapon to carry the same warhead payload with an even more effective guidance capability. In fact, torpedoes are essentially high-performance unmanned spacecraft. Their need for an initial energy expenditure means their launchers are far more complex than those for missiles, but the improved capability more than makes up for this.

Warhead Types

Chemical high-explosives made up the most common missile warhead and were commonly used in early torpedoes as well. These tried-and-true warheads still see some use, especially since high explosives have only become more efficient over the decades.

The most common torpedo warhead (and sometimes seen in late-model shipkiller missiles) are Strike Systems. Strike Systems are in fact disposable railguns or PPCs, using a lightweight version of the electromagnetics and dumping energy from the fusion battery in a self-immolating process that destroys the torpedo even as the kinetic slug or plasma pulse is fired. Plasma pulse strike systems (P2S2) are the far more common variety, but most vessels carry some kinetic strike systems (KS2).

Nuclear warheads – both fission and fusion explosives – were occasionally used very early in the space era, but were banned by treaty decades ago. Rumors of nuclear stockpiles float around constantly, as well as tales of nuclear armed torpedoes, but none have ever been proven.

Some missiles replaced their warheads entirely with electronic warfare suites, sacrificing one weapon in an attempt to give others a better chance to get through. While some experimental EW torpedoes have been built, none have been deployed.

Personal Technology

Computers and Electronics

PDA/PokéDex

Personal data assistants combine powerful hand-held micro-computers with telephony and radio communication capabilities (including real-time video conferencing), as well as video and still capture, net connectivity, music and video playback, and built in navigation functions. PDAs can load applications to customize their functionality for each user, and come pre-loaded with calendars and other basic productivity software. Most PDAs use a touch-screen interface and have high-definition displays, though many also include flip or slide out keypads. Some include 3D viewing capability, and most have 3D still capture. 3D video capture is rarer. Modern PDAs are water proofed and impact resistant, and most are also vacuum resistant. Military models are ruggedized, allowing them to work indefinitely in hard vacuum. Military PDAs also typically have longer battery life plus better radiation and impact resistance. They tend to be larger and slightly less powerful than cutting edge civilian models, though. PDAs can connect to remote devices, most commonly cameras or headsets.

For pokémon trainers, the majority of PDA lines include a PokéDex model, or at least add-on apps to provide the same functionality. Most serious trainers, however, prefer dedicated PokéDex models rather than upgraded standard PDAs, and consider add-on apps to be a joke. PokéDex models tend to have better cameras and are a bit larger and more rugged.

Smart Tablet/Slate

Low-powered, cheap touch-screen interface devices used for basic productivity. Most rely on network connectivity, and are really just remote interface devices for a central mainframe or rely on cloud resources. Disposable but very reliable. The cutting edge civilian models are fold-able.

Weapons

Firearms

The chemical powered firearm remains the standard personal defense weapon. Modern designs are made of light-weight materials, such as high-density plastics and ceramics. By law, civilian models require safety systems keyed to biometric rings. Many military models also use keyed safeties, but not biometrics - any military keyring will unlock any military firearm of a class the wearer has been cleared to use. Case-less ammunition is standard.

Most pistols are semi-automatic designs, with revolvers considered a quaint curiosity. Civilians are limited to pistols in nearly all colonies, and acquiring a carry license is a lengthy process. Police sometimes carry SMGs, but flechette weapons (including shotguns) are the most common heavier weapon, since they are effective in close quarters and less likely to damage sensitive equipment or punch through a pressure hull. Military forces also carry assault rifles and light machine guns. Sniper rifles are rare do the environments in question, but occasionally appear in military and police SWAT units.

Explosives

Though high explosives are used for breaching airlocks or doors, they are employed sparingly. HE grenades are banned by treaty for use in space, due to the considerable danger they pose to the integrity of habitats. Flash-bang and smoke grenades are, on the other hand, commonly employed by the military and police SWAT units .

Blades

Due to the difficulty of acquiring a firearm and the potential danger of using one in a habitat, the most common civilian weapons are knives. Though specially made combat blades are illegal or at least restricted in most jurisdictions, they are easier to acquire and more difficult to regulate. Additionally, most utility or work blades can still be used for self-defense - or assault. Though steel blades remain the standard, ceramics, high density plastics, and even carbon mono-edge designs are known. Throwing knives and shuriken are also very prevalent. Axes also show up regularly, adapted from fire-axes and hull repair tools. Police, military, and search & rescue also have access to heavy axes designed to help breach bulkheads and airlocks. Larger blades - machetes and swords - are very rare.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License