Gravity Manipulation and Control
Ever since the first spacecraft soared out of atmosphere it was realized that the lack of gravity in space would have seriously detrimental effects on the physiology of any crew exposed to it for long periods of time.
Centrifugal Gravity (CG):
The simplest method by which to create artificial gravity is little used on advanced spacecraft. It is still common on many orbital installations where installation of more complex and or expensive artificial gravity methods would prove prohibitive. In this method the whole of the ship or installation is kept in a constant rotational spin about the central axis. The resulting centrifugal force creates a simulation of gravity as it forces the occupants of the rotating cylinder outwards. This form of artificial gravity has its side effects however, which have resulted in its lack of use in space craft:
1. The Coriolis effect produced by the rotation has been shown to cause dizziness, nausea, and disorientation in some individuals. This is most prominent in facilities/ships with high rotation rates. On installations this tends not to be a problem due to the large diameter of the spin ring. On smaller craft however, rotation rates must be higher to successfully simulate gravity, intensifying the problem.
2. Gravitational gradients: Due to the fact that centrifugal force is the underlying principal behind rotational gravity the further out from rotational axis the higher the gravity. In large installations this isn’t a problem as the gravitational gradient is not severe. It also invites the creation of multiple gravity levels to ease the gravitational burden on visitors from worlds with higher or lower gravity, encouraging trade. On smaller craft however the effect proves more substantial and unless habitable spaces are kept a significant distance from center on long rotation arms results in lower gravity at the top of a deck then at the floor level. This makes movement awkward.
3. Angular Momentum: Due to the high angular velocities needed to maintain centrifugal gravity in a space craft, powerful propulsion systems must be included to not only propel the craft but to establish and maintain its spin. In ship designs where sections of the ship do not rotate, friction and torque will cause the rates of spin to converge and force the non rotating parts to spin as well. This mandates constant motor and power use to compensate.
4. Angular Inertia: A rotating ship requires much more complicated control laws to govern its translational movement then a non-rotating ship. The resultant angular inertia often proves to hinder translation along the lateral and vertical axis.
5. Linear Acceleration: Any linear acceleration along the axis of rotation will cause significant discomfort on the part of the crew mandating changes to ship design, especially in cases were acceleration compensators are not installed.
Another “simple” method for creating artificial gravity is to rely on the thrust of ones own spacecraft. This method is not considered ideal however as it requires the constant thrusting of a craft and these designs that are often considered uncomfortable to pilot. However, for ships that are strictly used in space, arranging the floors such that gravitational “down” is towards the stern of the ship, is still common practice.
The method by which gravity plating is forged is not known to anyone outside of the race that creates it. Further, contact with said is conducted only by two groups, the Stellar Grav Plate Cartel and Federated Gravitation. Study of grav plates has continued for centuries as other races try to determine just how the magnificent material is produced. What has been discovered tends to lead to the abandonment of any attempts to recreate it. The outer sheath of a grav plate is composed of an extremely dense form of what appears to be carbon. This has never been confirmed however, and according to spectral analysis, appears to be crust from neutron stars. To date no known race has ever been able to make surface contact with a neutron star and then escape its gravitational pull, confounding the issue.
Further analysis taken from damaged grav plate reveals that the inner core is composed of a nano-thin film of neutron-degenerate matter, neutronium, the material that makes up the core of a neutron star. This extremely dense material is manipulated by nanites that are of a type never seen before and constructed from an as yet undetermined neutronium/carbon composite.
When activated these smart nanites accelerate the neutronium film to relativistic speeds exciting a graviton wave field above the plate that simulates a large mass. This graviton wave field extends to a distance of 45 metra away from the plate at which point it dissipates to almost immeasurable levels inside of 15 metra. Special controllers allow for the user of grav plates to set the gravitational acceleration from 0 up to 33.39 Me/Cp2 (10 Confed Gravities, 12.5 Earth Gravities).
A curiosity of the grav plate is that it only simulates gravity in one direction. Spectral analysis of the lower side of the plate reveals that it is composed of a composite of the same Neutron Star Crust as the upper surface permeated with a diagravimagentic material of unknown origin. This material proves to cancel out the graviton field that should otherwise exist below the plate as well. This theory has held for centuries due to the seemingly low mass of the plate, a mass that measures far lower then its constituent parts should allow.
The plates require little, to no manual input from the ship’s crew. The embedded nanites automatically activate to keep the plate in production of the preprogrammed gravity level once they detect a drop in local external gravity below the set level. How the nanites detect this is unknown since they are immersed in the densest, and hence most gravitationally potent materials known. The nanites are further able to communicate with other nanites in other plates, though no detectable communication signal has ever been observed. This is evident however because once a grav plate activates any other grav plate within that grav plate’s gravitational influence will activate.
Experiments have shown that activating a single grav plate on a ship, even if it is not touching any other grav plate, will activate every other grav plate so long as it is within 45 metra of the nearest grav plate in the ship’s network. This means that unless the gravity is intentionally dialed down, any ship equipped with grav plate that is underway in deep space will have its artificial gravity activated whether or not it has power. The nanites are susceptible to EMP and thus the artificial gravity, but any EMP strong enough to disable the nanites will burn out any other electronics aboard ship first.
Grav plate requires no power to operate, the nanites possess internal batteries. To date there has only been one recorded instance of a grav plate loosing power. It is believed that the nanites recharge off EM radiation present on a ship. This theory was deemed plausible after the derelict of the UCSBS Machinacha was discovered three centuries after it’s disappearance.
The Machinacha was listed lost in combat with pirates on UCSB date 301.207 and later rediscovered on 615.327. The salvage crew discovered the ship in an EM dead zone, a region of space where EM radiation dropped below measurable levels. The salvage team went aboard hoping to find grav plate, but the absence of gravity upon their arrival led them to believe that the pirates had stripped it. Soon however the gravity began to return as the plates absorbed the EM radiation leaking off of the crew’s equipment. This confirmed the EM recharge theory but raised more questions as well.
As stated before only the Stellar Grav Plate Cartel and Federated Gravitation have any contact with the race that builds grav plate. The Stellar Grav Plate Cartel works within, but not exclusively for the UCSB and its member races. It is one of the richest organizations in the known galaxy, with enough wealth to own several worlds and secure several seats in the senate. Federated Gravitation on other hand is wholly controlled by the Galactic Federation. The Galactic Federation established the group after the Pharad joined their ranks and supplied them with their pickup location. To date, the Pharad are the only race known to have an exclusive deal with the grav plate makers outside of the Stellar Grav Plate Cartel.
No one knows anything about the grav plate makers themselves, even the Stellar Grav Plate Cartel and Federated Gravitation, do not make personal contact with them. Instead, it is public knowledge, that they make pick ups of grav plates at predetermined drop zones on the edge of the neutron cloud. Located on border of UCSB and GF space it is also referred to as the amino rift. It is composed of an indeterminate number of neutron stars and white dwarfs deep within a nebular cloud. How so many neutron stars and white dwarfs came to be in one dense volume no one can guess. Most believe an ancient race somehow created them for the specific purpose of producing grav plating. Whether or not this ancient race is the one still manufacturing the grav plate or not is unknown. Likewise it is unknown just how the grav plate manufacturers are paid, neither group giving up that secret for fear of loosing their monopoly.
Graviton spinners are used primarily by ships that still require gravity onboard their ships or stations but cannot afford the expense of grav plating. Graviton spinners are the natural development of gravitomagnetic field generators, which worked by spinning a superconductor up to high speed to create a gravitomagnetic field. Advances in low powered, cool, superconductors led to the development of the first true gravitomagnetic field generator. These had their disadvantages because of the strong magnetic field they also generated, but were used until the development of true graviton spinners.
Built upon the same principals as the gravitomagnetic field generator, a graviton spinner’s superconductor is coated in a dense layer of tetraneutron rich beryllium-10 composite. Like the much denser neutronium, this has been found to attract gravitons when electromagnetically charged. Once charged and spun up, the beryllium-10 attracts gravitons throughout local space, gathering them around itself until it reaches critical speed at which point it propels the gravitons away. These gravitons funneled down channels lined with beryllium-10 that run beneath the deck plating of a ship. The beryllium-10 channels keep the gravitons flowing outwards from the primary spinner and direct it into the prescribed “up” direction creating a local gravity field.
Graviton spinners require a great deal of energy to operate. Any loss in energy will induce a spin down in a matter of a few pulses during which time the gravity field they generate dissipates. Gravity fields generated by graviton spinners cannot be turned back on quickly due to the time it takes to bring the graviton spinner back up to speed and to attract enough gravitons to function. Outside of large gravity field, this can take up to a full cycle to accomplish for even smaller spinners. The larger and more powerful the spinner the stronger and more uniform a gravity field it will generate. However, the larger the spinner, the more mass and volume intensive it will become.
A problem with many graviton spinners is non-uniform gravity fields. This is especially apparent with smaller spinners or at the edges of a non-augmented spinner network. In these cases it is not uncommon to find that the gravitational potential of the field lessens the further one gets from the deck. On some ships it is so bad that free fall will be achieved a few metra off the deck.
Anti-Gravity Field (AGF) generators work in much the same way as graviton spinners. The AGF uses a graviton spinner at its core. Instead of emitting directed graviton fields into open space it first passes them through an electrically charged composite dark matter ribbon mesh. The charged mesh enacts an electro-gravitational effect upon the graviton wave that reverses the waveform on the quantum level creating a repulsion force against nearby objects.
The practical application of which means that when used inside of a gravitational field an AGF floats because the field of anti-gravitation waves that it creates cancels out the gravitational waves in the gravity field. This repels the object with the lowest gravitational potential away, in this case the AGF equipped vehicle or ship. AGF Generators require more power to operate then a standard graviton spinner, and do not have the long wind up times of the graviton spinner. This is for two reasons: First a graviton spinner used for artificial gravity creation must create a uniform field, whereas the AGF generator can get away with a far less cohesive field, sometimes resulting in “gravity bumps.” Second a standard Graviton Spinner spins up slowly in order to prolong its useful life. The rapid spin up of an AGF limits that lifespan to a few annura at most of regular use. AGFs lose their useful potential the further from a strong gravitational source or object they are. This makes them impractical for use as orbital launchers but still gives a launch boost at take off.
Experiments have been conducted on the use of AGFs in space for propulsion and maneuvering. These experiments have met with limited success as AGFs require a larger mass to push off in order create meaningful movement. Research is ongoing however as the presence of gravitational drives by more advanced races shows that gravitational propulsion methods are possible.
Inertial Damping Field:
A typical starship can, under normal drive, accelerate at rates that would flatten an unprotected crew. In the past shock gels and other damping mediums were used, but these were prohibitively messy and often required that the crew be placed into temporary suspended animation. This of course was not acceptable for combat craft so a solution was sought out that would prevent and compensate for this. Study of AGF systems showed that they could be tuned and focused in such a way as to limit, and in some cases completely negate the feeling of acceleration felt by a ship or crew.
The resulting acceleration compensators work in much the same way as an AGF generator. Early acceleration compensators or Inertial Dampers tied modified AGF generators into the ship’s flight control computers. When activated, these modified AGF generators would focus an AGF along the ship’s acceleration vector fully or partially negating the acceleration effect on the ship and crew without affecting its trajectory.
Modern Inertial Damping Fields (IDFs) work in a similar fashion. On capital scale ships, dark matter ribbons are embedded into the deck plating in a layer above the grav plates or graviton spinner network. Once activated, computer controls manipulate the generated AGF to compensate for the ship’s acceleration. A byproduct of this system shown enhancement of the Graviton field strength will improve a ship’s structural rigidity, allowing accelerations faster than the materials in its construction otherwise would.
This works fine for normal operations but was seen as a hindrance to the use of slipstreams. That is until the first time a ship accidentally over accelerated on slipstream with its IDF at full power. Until that point it was advised to not accelerate on a slipstream past normal acceleration levels, despite the fact that slipstream drives can almost instantly accelerate a ship to its maximum slipstream speed. When investigators discovered the drifting ship after it dropped off the slipstream they found the crew unconscious but alive, with only minimal acceleration and deceleration injuries.
The team discovered that once sufficient power was applied to the IDF it excited the gravitons in the slipstream itself enhancing the field strength and saving the life of the crew. A ship’s power limitations, and not its gravity field generators, then became the limiting factor in slipstream acceleration. That is why the majority of ships will power down all non-essential systems when activating their slipstream drives. On large capital ships this is not as readily apparent but on smaller craft like fighters and shuttles it is, as systems enter a low powered state upon acceleration and deceleration.
IDFs are not perfect. Whenever a ship accelerates or makes any kind of inertial change it will be felt to some degree by the crew. This effect is minimized by the computers but the practicalities of space travel and the power requirements of the ship mandate that an IDF not be perfect. The simple reason behind this is that the more acceleration force an IDF has to counter the more power it will require. Therefore even starship IDFs are set so that the crew will feel some acceleration, especially during combat operations.
It is not uncommon to see crew members of a ship loose a step as a ship accelerates or decelerates. The effect is even more pronounced when going to slipstream, hence the requirement for warnings before transitioning to slipstream, especially on small craft. Additionally, since IDFs are tied into a ship’s flight control and navigational computers they cannot compensate for sudden accelerations brought on by outside forces such as impacts or contact with air density changes. Advanced IDFs tied into a ship’s sensors can react to anticipated impacts but this is not always effective and some shock will still effect the ship.
Grappler beams are another extension of the graviton spinner. In this case a graviton spinner with an even denser coating of tetraneutron rich beryllium-10 composite, or in advanced cases neutronium, be it artificially produced, or salvaged from damaged grav plate, forms the core of the system. The graviton spinner is mated to an emitter array that focuses the resultant graviton wave beam down to a tight spot. Repulsor beams use the same basis but include a dark matter ribbon screen to reverse the beam’s effect. Most large scale grappler beams include a repulsor lens that can be put in place automatically. Grappler beams are most commonly used on spaceships and space stations and are used in three ways:
1. To secure/transport cargo, retrieve support ships, or to tow other craft, replacing mooring cranes and mooring lines.
2. In docking maneuvers grapplers/repulsors will lock onto grapple targets in order to pull themselves in and align with docking ports in order to prevent unnecessary thruster firings.
3. In combat maneuvers a grappler can be used to prevent an enemy ship from escaping, coining the name grappler beams.
When a grappler beam engages between two objects the two objects are pulled together towards their new common center of gravity. When used by a large craft against something significantly smaller this effect is invisible to most. When used between objects of equal mass it is more evident, and when used against an object of far greater mass the grappling ship will find itself pulled towards the more massive object.
There are several countermeasures available to a crew caught in a grappler beam. If equipped, a repulsor beam of sufficient strength can counteract a grappler beam of equal or weaker strength, much like an AGF. Shearing planes are also used, these specialized beams disrupt the grappler’s graviton wave beam rendering it ineffective. Grappler beam generators can also be disabled by firing a strong energy pulse back along the beam to its source. Finally, GDF shields can counteract a grappler beam if they are stronger then the source beam.