Jump Drive History

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The Jump Drive is believed to have been first discovered by the Ancients more than 300,000 years ago.

  • With it they explored the greater part of Charted Space. At the conclusion of the Final War, the Ancients' jump technology was lost, although intact (damaged) artifacts were found later on, and reverse-engineered to create jump drives of a more primitive nature.

Please refer to the following AAB Library Data articles for further information:
Starship:




Description (Specifications)[edit]

A Jump field is partly a gravitic effect.

Basic Science[edit]

Much of it came from the investigation of theoretical physics and black hole properties. Jump fields are created by energy storage systems, superfast power switching elements, and several field generators which actually use this pulse of energy to generate the jump field. The field is an event horizon. The ship falls out of space into what we now call jumpspace. It is what Terran's refer to as an artificial Einstein-Rosen bridge; it is short lived, and is a small pocket of space wrapped entirely around the center of field, which is inside the ship.

The first primitive jump drives were a crude affair, employing a single field generator. This process created a spherical field, and hulls therefore had to be spherical to get as much mass as possible inside the field due to the extremely high energy needs. These systems could not direct the jump. One had to place the ship at the optimum place to jump to a destination, charge up, then fire the drive. If everything worked, you vanished in a flash of Cherenkov radiation and were on your way. Jump space navigation involved normal space navigation, plus grav field calculations for the departing star and nearby lesser bodies, to determine where to get to go into the desired jump; this was the original source of the term 'jump point'. Destination mass was also important, at least for the star, and was required to define the terminus of the jump.

The gravity well of the destination star was a part of how this approach worked, and was critical to a successful transportation system. Jumping into empty ('flat') space with this primitive system was more than merely a source of uncertainty as to the emergence point, IT WAS FATAL, as one could not rejump BACK without a departing gravity well's 'KICK' in the desired direction. It was only possible to jump from star to star and only if they were not more than 1 parsec apart. These first primitive jump drives were crude; but they gave the people of Vland several nearby stars to explore and colonize, and in time establish the Imperium's first ancestral interstellar nation (ignoring for the moment the Ancients of course).

Starships must generate immense amounts of power to jump, and therefore additional fuel must be allocated for employment of the jump drive at the rate of 10% of the ship's tonnage per parsec to travel via jump. Much attention has been paid to this in an attempt to reduce it. However, due to the tradeoffs of power system design to get this much power output in this small a space, and the cost and size of a large high efficiency plant, the optimum solution is a small plant that can operate at vastly higher output for short periods, and a large consumption of much cheaper fuel.

The critical bottleneck defining the general limitations everything else must conform to is the short time one can store that much power in a super-capacitor before it breaks down from the stress. This means the ship must generate all the power to use in jump within a half an hour before discharging it into the drive proper. Several experimental ships in the early days exploded due to capacitor failure. Only a capacitor is able to discharge its energy store this rapidly, batteries of the electrochemical sort simply cannot serve in this manner of application.

Jump Drive Super-capacitor[edit]

Development of the super-capacitor to give it the power density and stability demanded for this service stagnated early on, and little progress has been made since then in spite of considerable effort to find ways to improve it. At the tremendous energy density of the capacitor at full charge, material stability is the serious issue, and tends to degrade exponentially if the charge is maintained too long. Current state of the art capacitors are rated to permit storage of full charge for 1/2 hour at the conclusion of charge cycle. (The first ones had to be used within 1 minute of reaching full charge.)

This is a critical factor in ship design- because the power plant must generate all the power the jump drive will use, and hand the last of it over for use within the 1/2 hour period that the super-capacitors can withstand the stress of full charge. A high efficiency system able to power the system up would occupy most of the ship.

Therefore a more compact system is used, which can operate in overload mode for the time required, delivering the needed power. This is not very efficient, and uses a lot of fuel as fuel, and even more as coolant for all systems under the extreme stress of pre-jump charge-up. This is why ships have such large jump tankages. A system to jump with good efficiency would demand a large reactor and power converter not operating in overload mode, and would be at least 10 times as large for the capacity needed.

Jump Drive Spheres[edit]

Spheres are not the most efficient forms for small ships to contain crew and cargo.

Effort was made to explore ways to modify this to permit more useful forms, which in time resulted in a system employing 2 field generators, resulting in a short fat cylinder with hemispherical ends. In time this succeeded, and firing them together resulted in a successful ship which performed exactly as did the spherical ships - but with a shaped field, allowing a shaped hull within it. That shape is a cylinder with hemispherical ends, and the length is equal to 3 radii; The formula for calculating such a hull's volume is 7/3*Pi*R^3. The hull is 3R long, 2R wide. The 2 generator systems are 1 radius apart, fed by special cables from a central switching system, until a pulse timing network was placed midway between them as a refinement, allowing compensation for cable speed variances.

Each field generator sits in the middle of a ring of supercapacitors, with a superswift switching device on top of it. The AFT unit sits 'on top' of the reactor shielding; the FWD unit sits at the center of the forward hull hemisphere. The switching system is simply a pulse generator. Timing of the two generators was controlled first by cable length, then by a delay line centered midway between the generators; this commonly was called the serpentine. The switching devices re millimeter wave speed high power SCR's, high surge capacity power switching elements which are a byproduct of research into centimeter+ band radar active component technology.

Testing a new model destroyed it; it jumped backwards nearly to the home world and exploded on emergence. Reviewing all records of construction, a CABLE LENGTH ERROR introduced a phasing difference in generating both fields. Rebuilding the ship and aiming it the opposite direction, it jumped next door successfully. A later (automated) edition jumped to empty space, and back.

This early system with proper timing could jump in any (safe) direction, including into and out of empty space. It could NOT perform jump 2+ or do any of the many complex things fleet employs to gain tactical advantage today. {It required small craft abroad or at the destination due to the hull ship not being conducive to atmospheric flight. It was easy to maintain and repair in the field, and hopelessly limited. The thinking it inspired probably resulted in some of the policies of the first Empire- and it's collapse when Terran J2, then J3 ships arrived.

The only real advantage was it's extreme simplicity of calibration and maintenance, and high reliability, and the ability to go anywhere- eventually.

Such a system is not manufactured in known space at this time, and no historic examples are known to still exist in a museum. Only old books and drawings, and a very few photographs remain to mark this essencial page in history.

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

Jump Drive Overview: The Jump drive was first discovered by:

  • The Geonee (a minor human race) in -9240, by reverse-engineering an Ancients starship recovered in their home system.
  • Humans on Vland also designed their own version only a short while later, in -9235, via original research.

It was also independently re-discovered by:

Detailed Design Discussion[edit]

A new design was created using a central switching element next to the super-capacitors, and cabling feeding the field generators. The cabling lengths was somehow bungled or not taken into account, and the ship when tested Jumped backwards; towards Vland. It reemerged just out of atmosphere, and exploded, the EXACT opposite direction which was expected.

They built a new one to the exact specifications of the first, but aimed it the other way (tail first); and it arrived at its intended destination, with minor error in arrival point, which was considered odd. It was aimed back at Vland tail first and arrived at the system, again with arrival error. At this time, standard ships on the route if positioned PROPERLY at departure point properly always arrived exactly at the known emergence point for that system, so the error was quite interesting to consider. In time this was determined to be due to its vector orientation; which way the stern as pointing in when the fields fired; it had not been PERFECTLY aligned. the vector actually had a greater effect than the position did!

The two-generator system was firing one just before the other- and we are talking pico seconds earlier; the event horizon in effect rippled into existence from one end to the other of the ship. The leading field generator closest to the switching system fired just prior to the other, and the ship 'fell' into jumpspace in that direction. Early designs entered tail first as a general rule, as the ship decelerated to a stop while arriving at jump point, and this meant arriving tail first. In any case, the orientation directed the jump to the majority extent; Aim the ship, you aim the jump. Towing it well away from the normal departure point, the ship was aimed at the system next door with exquisite accuracy, and fired off; and it arrived where aimed, allowing for aiming error. It has jumped from a point far removed from what the Maths indicated was THE departure point for the system next door. (However, doing this was later proved to be risky, with a higher incidence of misjump. To this day, jump point is the recommended departure for nice safe civilian jumping. Military operations often take advantage of this aspect of jump drive physics in assorted classified ways.)

The ship was an automated vessel, so it was fit for and dispatched on a dangerous mission- jump to an empty hex, take star pictures, and jump back. IT WORKED. The flat-space prison was overcome, and man could reach for the stars. This combined with the later development of grav decking, resulted in a practical technology which gave Vland the stars.

Hull Considerations[edit]

Spheres and stubby cylinders are not very streamlined, and have trouble landing on worlds with livable atmospheres. Not impossible, but problematical. Hulls that could fly and possibly land would be very useful indeed. Research into this developed the idea that a hull must conform to the shape of the field-if you want to keep it intact and take all of it along for the ride through jump space. Therefore, a field must conform to the shape of a desired hull. the problem is that fields want to be spheres, and 2 generator fields look like stubby shortened powdered medicine capsules, i.e., a round ended cylinder with the straight cylindrical portion having a length not more than the spherical radius long. was possible using 2 overlapping jump fields, around one object. This was modified by creating one field smaller than the other, producing an egg shape. It worked, but offered no real aerodynamic advantage, less crew space than a true flying airframe would, more of its space in an awkward manner (which therefore usually was where one stuck the fuel, which being liquid would fit nicely), and more complex construction. The shape today is almost never used. However, it was a first fledgling step forward. It led to 3 generator shapes, and the first primitive cones, so it has a place in history as a stepping stone.

A wing-like shape would need a wing-like field, and this would take not two generators in a line, but several generators, spaced out to create a conforming field shape. The first such was a rather blunt and lumpy flying wing, which worked; sort of; it could reenter, 'fly', and land. Another was a 3D wedge, a cone like shape- the reader is reminded of the fictitious Tholian ship design. However inefficient at using available space, at least it flew well and could land. Mounting external fuel or cargo pods improved efficiency, at the cost of reducing aerodynamic efficiency. In pure form, it was a superb supersonic shock-wave rider, although not very good at subsonic velocity. A pure cone was also developed and remains on the lists to this day as a stable usable configuration. Alas, it develops little lift, and is inefficient at using its internal space for decking or vehicles or cargo at small sizes; a better shape was needed.

Complex Multiple Field Generators[edit]

Developing complex multiple field generator systems was obviously the path to the future, and much funded research went into developing the technology. As a side effect of field research, hints were discovered which in time led to the startling discovery that there were multiple octaves of jumps space, which eventually resulted in jump 2, but that was a long time later when these hints were pursued. At the time, they were strange details which simply needed to be recorded, which had nothing to do with understanding how fields interacted and surrounded their generating sources- and that's what the funding declared the mission was for.

Development continued, and soon found there were ways to control everything, and create ever more complex fields, which allowed one to create more and more complex and precisely defined fields- and shapes of hull to fit them. Flying wings were a problem, as velocity of reentry and velocity of convenient flight and landing are greatly different (sub mach one up to prehaps mach 2, vs Mach 25!). shapes appearing to be useful were wedge-like, or flat sphere like. Special purposes called for special shapes, such as the flying wart encrusted I-beam skeleton appearance of space only carriers, and the decked out rock of the economical buffered planetoid.

With multiple generating systems becoming possible, then practical, all these were used to success. With the study of primitive meson beam technology, the tendency of certain shapes to be difficult to precisely range resulting in ranging errors was noted, with distinct advantage to navy vessels who may someday have to face practical meson weapons; this strongly influenced the Imperial decision to favor the wedge so typical of much of its fleet today, for good reason. For non combatant ships, the flat sphere offered considerable advantage in economy and internal space utilization efficiency. Its application was dependent on multiple field generator methods, and is today a common way to make civilian ships using reactionless thruster maneuver systems.

Major Historical Events Timeline[edit]

((Update based on A CHRONOLOGY OF THE IMPERIUM, MegaTraveller_Imperial_Encyclopedia, GDW: ISBN 0-943580-48))

  • J-1 -9,236 Third Imperium Dating (~10,352 years from MegaTraveller Year 1117)
  • J-2 -5,430 Third Imperium Dating (~6,547 years from MegaTraveller Year 1117)
  • J-3
  • J-4
  • J-5
  • J-6

References & Contributors (Sources)[edit]

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