Ship Fuel

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Ship Fuel is an important commodity within Charted Space and is widely traded despite the fact that it can be gathered at almost any gas giant or large planetary body of water.

Description (Specifications)[edit]

Refined fuel is available at starports at about Cr500 per ton; unrefined fuel is available at starports for Cr100 per ton, or can be skimmed from gas giants for free. In addition, water can be taken from oceans or lakes (…if there are any on the world) and used as unrefined fuel. Military and quasi-military starships often use unrefined fuel because it is more available, and because their maneuver drives are specially built to use it. Commercial ships sometimes use unrefined fuel because it is cheaper. [1]

Typical Fuel Costs[edit]

Fuel costs vary greatly across Charted Space, but typical costs are often estimated at:

Most starports will carry fuel at or around these prices as long as proper refining, storage, and other facilities are available.

System Fuel Collection[edit]

Many planetary governments set up automated fuel collection services with refining facilities located on a gas giant moon, and an intrasystem spacecraft transport service to a mainworld highport.

In systems without a gas giant, regular expeditions are often mounted to travel to the Oort Clouds in the far or remote systems, often taking weeks or months of sublight travel. Many corporations have arisen to provide remote fueling stations, often for Jump Bridges, and Space Fuelers are almost as common as belters. In fact, many argue that a space fueler is simply a different kind of belter, one who specializes in providing fuels, rather than other resources.

Drive Malfunction & Fuel Correlation[edit]

One of the two primary factors influencing starship malfunction are unrefined fuel and lack of maintenance.[4] Military Ships tend to be built with more capable and tougher reactors capable of handling either unrefined or refined fuel. Civilian Ships are more often built with cheaper reactors that handle refined fuel well, but have a relatively high failure rate when using unrefined fuel. The odds go up for a misjump when unrefined fuel is used within an economy civilian reactor. This forces most civilian ship captains to spend more time refining unrefined fuel supplies. On-ship fuel refining equipment can vary greatly in cost and capability.

Wilderness Refueling[edit]

Fuel can quickly add up costwise and the cheaper fuel, Unrefined Fuel, adds extra risk, danger of drive malfunction, and misjump to a voyage. For this reason, many ship captains prefer the more time-consuming, but less expensive option of Wilderness Refueling, which is to say the stopping to collect water off a planet or from icy asteroids (...which can be refined into hydrogen fuels), or the collection of raw fuel substances from a gas giant. Such ships employ Fuel Scoops and a Fuel Treatment Plant. The ability to collect fuel on the fly is also of great value to Exploration Vessels and Scout Vessels. A military implication of this fact is that large areas (...rifts) without significant planets or fuel sources become strategic blocks to starship and warship movement. Jump Bridges of various types are one of the few solutions to this problem and they often come at great expense of resources, funds, time, and effort. [5]

History & Background (Dossier)[edit]

The earliest fuels are simply flammables within most societies. As engines, furnaces, and more advanced energy-using devices are invented, the need for higher yield fuels grow.

Common Fuel Types[edit]

Fuel Forms:

  1. Hybrid Fuel
  2. Hypergolic Fuel
  3. Inert Fluid
  4. Liquid Fuel
  5. Liquid Propellant
  6. Petrochemical
  7. Raw Mass or Reaction Mass
  8. Solid Fuel

Fuel Substances:

  1. Antimatter Pellets
  2. Flammables
  3. Hydrocarbons
  4. Hydrogen
  5. Ionizates
  6. Oxidizers
  7. Radioactives or Fissionables

Alternative Drives, Fuels & Power Plant Research[edit]

Occasionally, prototype Antimatter power plants are used within Charted Space, although the cost of producing antimatter is quite high, making such plants untenable for commercial use as of 1105 IC. The first commercial antimatter reactors are expected to come online by TL:16-18, and be commonly and commercially available by TL:19-21. Some predict that such reactors will be available within a few decades, while others forecast that the problems of practical antimatter mastery may take several more centuries to crack. It is widely believed that the Ancients were masters of antimatter or contraterrene matter and widely used it and even more advanced technologies.

Solar Sails and other kinds of alternate drives also exist, but the conventional Jump Drive outperforms them in most regards.

Technological Overview of Selected Fuels[edit]

Technological Stages of Fuel Development[edit]

Epochal Technological Development: The first fuels were little more than flammables for simple combustion on most worlds, typically plantstuffs such as wood. By the end of TL:1-3 tech epoch, many sophont societies begin experimenting with steam engines, internal combustion engines, and other propulsion devices for self-propelled vehicles. These devices require increasingly higher power yields leading to more potent fuels.

TL:4-6:
Once a civilization discovers and perfects mechanization, typically within the TL:4-6 industrial period, fuels become very important, with more advanced fuels being researched and developed on a regular basis. Societies seek to optimize beastpower (...known as horsepower on terra) in any way possible... more efficient engines, fuel additives, and a variety of other methods. A civilizational race is on to maximize power yields.

TL:7-9:
As fuel technology advances, fuels with higher energy potentials are used, typically petrochemicals, volatiles, gasoline, petrol, POL (Petroleum Oil Distillate), fossil fuels, hydrazine, or the variety of other names by which fuel are referred. These fuels are mostly generalized as Hydrocarbons. Most such fuel commodities are scarce with limited supplies available. Many societies hit peak usage and are forced to seek out alternative fuel sources and propulsion methods. More resource poor worlds may be forced to import fuel at cost, especially those systems without gas giants. High fuel costs can significantly decrease profits for merchant ships.

TL:10-12:
By the TL:10-12 technological epoch, Fusion power is typically mastered, which requires very little more than Hydrogen in quantity, one of the most common elements found within the Dakhaseri / Galaxy. This greatly simplifies fuel harvesting, reducing it to collection and refinement, both available at the cost of time and effort, rather than large currency outlays. Refined fuel is vastly superior, but unrefined fuel is still often used due to greater availability and less effort required to use it.

TL:13-15:
By the TL:13-15 technological epoch, Fusion power has been used for decades or centuries, possibly millennia, and the search for new power sources continues. Collectors begin to come into vogue as prototypes and antimatter is of great interest.

References & Contributors (Sources)[edit]

This article was copied or excerpted from the following copyrighted sources and used under license from Far Future Enterprises or by permission of the author.

  1. Marc Miller. Starships (Game Designers Workshop, 1977), 6.
  2. Marc Miller. Starships (Game Designers Workshop, 1977), 6.
  3. Marc Miller. Starships (Game Designers Workshop, 1977), 6.
  4. Marc Miller. Starships (Game Designers Workshop, 1977), 6.
  5. An unpublished factoid written by Maksim-Smelchak