The Infrastructure of Space Travel

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The Infrastructure of Space Travel

Postby FSF Truce » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:59 pm

I'm not sure if this is the right area for this topic, but it did seem the only one even close to appropriate. Regardless, I thought it could be fun to toss about.

I was driving around earlier, stuck at a red light and my mind began to wander. I found myself wondering about traffic jams of the future. Tis eventually led to thoughts of possible traffic jams in space, and for those who play STO, that invariably conjured up images of those traffic officers that tell you when its ok to warp to different sector blocks! ;-)

Anyway, it got me to thinking. While I can't imagine an actual traffic jam occuring in space (lest there be some sort of major battle resulting in tons of debris and ships trapped behind it of course), there would have to be some kind of infrastructure put in place once space travel reaches the levels seen in Star Trek. With some many ships from so many worlds travelling to and fro, and space being so vast, it seems there would have to be some kind of system put into place for a variety of reasons.

1) While space is vast, there are only so many shortest routes from one point to another. Even if 5 ships began at different places, if they were all heading to Earth, or some other planet they would all eventually have to come to some junction where their options were limited to but a few paths.

2) While ship tech in Trek is highly advanced, it isn't perfect. There are always things malfunctioning for various reasons. If a ship went off course it could find itself lost and in danger.

3) There must be a way to track one's ships. Mostly this would be something needed by the Federation, or Starfleet. But I am sure Earth, Vulcan, Ferenginar, etc. would want to know where their ships were at any given moment. So would private businesses who owned multiple ships, like cargo companies, transports, leisure ships, rentals, etc.

Given these factors, and I'm sure many others that I have missed there must be a system in place that helps manage space travel. I have a couple of thoughts and plan to share them here, but would also be interested in hearing what others think. Heck there may already be something on the web somewhere that covers this for all I know! So think about it, and let's see what we can come up with.
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Postby FSF Lensman » Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:46 pm

I imagine starships file flight plans like airliners...There are also likely to be 'star lanes' for use by commercial vessels (Star Fleet probably uses them as well, except for circumstances where such would be a bad idea--obviously invading someone by way of star lanes is a Bad Idea).
The star lanes probably have 'checkpoint buoys' along their length which allow ships to check their progress and allow appropriate entities to track progress as well.
Most star nations would have some sort of rescue service that provides emergency services to passing ships in peril, as well. Even nations at war would still rescue each others' commercial carrier vessels...might intern their crews or confiscate cargoes thought to be strategic.
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Postby FSF Truce » Fri Mar 19, 2010 12:55 am

Yeah I was thinking along those same lines for the most part. Bouys spaced in a way that would be picked up by the ship's navigational sensors to help keep them on course. I would expect that these bouys would also work to help keep track of the ship's, transmitting real-time updates as to the ships position, speed and course. That would come in handy should a ship leave the 'lane' and go missing, giving authorities a much smaller area to search.

Even so, this bouy system would have to be extremely extensive, and would require monitoring and maintenance, upgrading, expansion as well. Something along these lines would tons of resources, equipment, personnel, etc.

Then you have to take into account all of the other variables like the ever changing face of the galaxy; asteroids, comets, disturbances that could alter gravitational forces and positioning of the bouys, etc.

This would have to be a massive undertaking in order to be effective.
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Postby FSF Bri » Fri Mar 19, 2010 1:36 am

Actually, getting lost in space would be quite difficult. You would always be able to use the stars for navigational purposes and be able to determine your exact location in space simply from that. A buoy or any real physical system to aid in space travel would be largely unreliable and open a huge book of potential issues. The only time that would be conceivable would be in a "short transit" area, say within a solar system or something.

A really good example of a good system is from the game Freelancer actually. They use "trade lanes" to navigate within a star system to get from planet to planet to space station which actually accelerate your ship much faster than it can go on it's own, and then to get from system to system there are "warp gates" which are essentially massive artificial wormholes that send you to a warp gate in your destination solar system.

Using conventional space travel technology, I doubt it would ever be an issue given the huge time it would take to get anywhere far away, and even the considerable amount of time it takes currently to get to relatively close locations. Limits the amount of "traffic" you could have financially speaking as well as time-wise.

With Star Trek technology, it takes away a lot of the issues with setting up physical platforms, as sensor technology allow a much, much fewer number of buoys or beacons. From Trek though, they do have some kind of space infastructure system set up as a number of episodes, they reference something like a federation stardate beacon. Also seems like a task delegated to Starbases.
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Postby FSF Who » Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:47 am

See the interesting thing about space travel in the Star Trek universe is that each ship would need to have individual ways of tracking themselves and other ships (which is done with the sensor system Bri noted...in hand with the various reports that's sent in to SFHQ). The real reason behind that is because a lot of their traffic was originally about exploring new areas of space, where there would be no previous infrastructure for space travel set up (unless by previous species unknown to Starfleet, but then the issue would be attempting to discover it.) However, thankfully, they're able to use their sensors and etc whilst in travel so they would be able to detect if there is anything in their path and adjust accordingly.

For Star Wars we have the various hyperspace trade routes, as well as a map of the galaxy installed in various nav computers for calculating, also the benefit that if you get too close to a gravity well while in hyperspace you'll end up being ripped out of hyperspace. Of course when the face of the galaxy changes, this will cause issues for their travel, as shown when the Falcon jumps into the middle of the debris field created by the destruction of Alderaan.

The Babylon 5 universe utilizes the pre-existing jumpgate system, they have various buoys setup along the pathways, and the exit/entry is usually coordinated by a base (such as Babylon 5) on regular space side of the gates. Though we've seen a variety of issues with this system during the course. Ships being destroyed by unexpected opening/closing of the jumpgates, also people moving away from the beacons in the hyperspace that the gates take them to being lost.

Dune is interestingly unique, because this verse utilizes a human mutated by the spice melange in order to take care of primary navigational purposes. They have a sort of psychic bond among each other and are able to coordinate this way, and they pretty much take care of all space travel.

Most other Sci-Fi tends to base their travel off of the various types above, or just kinda rely on the pure luck system of navigation, or don't get too in-depth into how people get to where they're going.
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Postby FSF Truce » Fri Mar 19, 2010 2:59 pm

I disagree that it would be difficult to get lost in space, to the contrary I think it would be one of the biggest perils in the early times of deep space transit. As technology as a whole evolved and as more systems were explored, the risk would undoubtedly lessen but with so much of the galaxy still uncharted as recently as TNG and Voyager there is still a lot of uncertainty.

While I do expect that most starships will have the ability to use the celestial bodies around them in order to get an approximate location I don't think that would be the only method used, and for a variety of reasons.

1) Simply using the position of stars and/or planets doesn't seem be the most accurate method. Using our own history of using the same system for travel on the seas indicates this to be the case. For many years sailors used the stars to guide them, and they would usually be able to figure their approximate location. This was time consuming, and it was also an inexact science. While the results were often close enough to be useful, within a few nautical miles let's say, that was on an extremely small area. Now imagine that couple of miles being comparitively multiplied relative to the vastness of space. A mile or two can quckly become hundreds of thousands, or even millions of miles. That can become a huge issue in some instances. This inefficiency is probably one of the main reasons that the stars have not been the primary method used by sailors for quite some time. Instead we now rely on satellites and GPS technology. Now I believe that ships will always be able to use starcharts to assist in plotting courses and charting a position, I just don't believe it will be the only method or even the primary one.

One way that this can be made more accurate of course is if the ship is in relatively close proximity to a planet or other body. A 'land mark' so to speak. If there are charted bodies within sensor range then a position could be accurately triangulated. This would probably be very accurate, but again could only be utilyzed in situations where a ship is close enough to such bodies. This couldn't be used in deep space or traveling between systems very effectively.

2) A bouy, or navigational beacon system could also be outfitted with all kinds of data collecting and relaying technology. Besides being able to give real time positions of various ships, it could also give condition updates. If there is some kind of hazard or disturbance in that area of space; asteroids, solar flares, radiation, etc. This could warn ships well in advance, allowing them to take the proper precautions, including a course change.

I do believe there wold be various shipping lanes set up, this would make it much easier to manage traffic and course options. These are the places I believe would most probably be set up using beacons. Helping keep the ships from going off course, and in keeping track of what ships are where.

I look at our current navy as a model. Some true sailors still have the ability to figure out there approximate position, bearing and course using the stars and most can still plot a course from one place to another by using a compass and chart, but it's not the standard anymore. They are now relying more and more on computers and satellites for shipboard navigation, and for tracking they use the same satellites along with radar stations. In many ways this is similar to the model I would expect to see in the Star Trek universe.

As far as the other sci fi genres. They all seem pretty cool, but I am not anywhere near as familiar with them as I am with Trek, so I can't really comment beyond that.
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Postby Vardis Kree » Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:48 pm

I would suspect in the early days of interstellar travel, whichever genre, that there would have been "lost vessels" such as in the case of the Botony Bay. And even after many years of travel there would still be vast areas of unexplored space.. and even more than what we can imagine I am sure.

Having NAV points that would send signals to vessels.. like the signals used by airports, would seem to be logical.

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Postby FSF Bri » Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:12 pm

For Trek, there is no need for an infastructure. I'll cite Voyager getting tossed 70,000 lightyears and still being able to pinpoint it's location within a minute.
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Postby FSF Truce » Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:43 am

FSF Bri wrote:For Trek, there is no need for an infastructure. I'll cite Voyager getting tossed 70,000 lightyears and still being able to pinpoint it's location within a minute.


Yeah I know that, but it seemed bogus. Voyager was one of my least favorite series.
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Postby FSF Lensman » Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:55 am

Voyager probably tagged its general location by using stellar landmarks, very much like those true sailors still do.
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Postby FSF Hawg » Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:37 am

First.... space is HUGE. Even when around DS9, or some other starbase, think about just how few ships are usually right there in close proximity. It really isn't that many under normal circumstances. When the Klingons attacked DS9, then had dozens and dozens of ships around DS9. Obviously they moved a fleet that size around the station, yet had no problems running into each other as a fleet. So I really don't think it is nearly as big of an issue that they would need specific "lanes".

Second, that is what long range sensors and navigational computers are for. They make minute adjustments to courses for stars, planets, asteroids, other ships, and all sorts of other stuff while en route to a destination, specifically to avoid hitting other objects.

Third, when in explored space, we know that the Federation does have sub space buoys all around the place that are in constant communication with each other and ships in the area. That is how communications are sent, and ships use them for navigation and updates as well (we've seen ships check them for stardates and stuff).

Fourth, we do know that there are areas where faster warp speeds are now allowed because of how it is tearing the fabric of space, so there *are* some areas that are more commonly used.
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Postby FSF Hawg » Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:46 am

Getting lost in space... as long as the system has been charted and the computer is functioning, is actually pretty hard to do. Even when Q sent the Enterprise out to the region of space where the Borg were, they were still able to chart the surrounding star systems and determine exactly where they were. Just because they hadn't traveled to a star system, doesn't mean it hadn't been viewed through telescopes and charted.
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Postby FSF Who » Tue Mar 23, 2010 11:59 am

FSF Bri wrote:For Trek, there is no need for an infastructure. I'll cite Voyager getting tossed 70,000 lightyears and still being able to pinpoint it's location within a minute.


The thing with Voyager, iirc, is that they were able to take data from the Caretaker and other various local places that gave them relatively decent information of where they were and the direction they needed to go to get back home.
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Postby Ramsay » Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:09 pm

FSF Who wrote:
FSF Bri wrote:For Trek, there is no need for an infastructure. I'll cite Voyager getting tossed 70,000 lightyears and still being able to pinpoint it's location within a minute.


The thing with Voyager, iirc, is that they were able to take data from the Caretaker and other various local places that gave them relatively decent information of where they were and the direction they needed to go to get back home.

They Also seem too have had information already available too them in terms of star charts.

I think Star Trek At least Star fleet and the Federation uses a Complex system of both buoys and Live Feeds From Starships navigation boards too maintain consistently updated information on Navigation and situational awareness.
It may be piggy backed too the Federations Communications network.
Too back this opinion ::Spoiler Alert::
I point first too Startrek Nemisis, Where in When the Enterprise was being chased by Shinzon's Simitar the Enterprise Made the mistake of entering the Bassen Rift, where in there Connection in Stellar Cartogiphy is cut off before that occured Data And Picard had been looking at the data on the location, and make up of Star Fleet Battle Group Omega indicating that the ships in the battle group all had a live feed too each others location, A plot point of the Movie was Shinzon's use of B4 too learn Star fleet's communications protocols too know the exact locations of the entire Federation fleet. so from this I beleve we can infer that possibly akin too today's US ARMY blue force tracking, which allows information too be traded between Army vehicles regarding strength, situation, Mission and known enemy locations. Starfleet ships too Maintain a live feed too each other in regards too situation' Strength' Class and ID.
They also seem too feed information regarding course corrections in Generations a minor plot point was that After the destruction of a Star the One of the things affected was that the USS Bozeman had to make a minor course correction due to a change in the gravitational field. This means that The Enterprise D's Computer logged Information From the Bozeman's Navigation Computer of a small Detail, or that the Information of the Correction was in a buffer of some kind available too any Starfleet Ship along with details regarding Magnetic field Strength and other such information.
Third I suspect that Federation Registered Civilian shipping may have some kind of simplified system feeding information regarding the ships Class, Standing in regards too safety, Manifest and Course they possibly have access too Advisory's from star fleet ships regarding threats and trouble this I base on Startrek II the Wrath of Khan. Where in the Kobiashi Maru's Information is available at the asking.

But in a pinch each star-fleet ship maintains information via Stellar Cartography on star maps of the galaxy gathered via Long range observations from observatory's placed all over Federation space via this system a Federation ship operating outside the communications network like Voyager in delta or Defiant in gamma can locate themselves, and set courses via relative positional land marks like constellations and Stellar phenomenon.

I Also believe that Signals, Communications and Sensor Intelligence and description is one of Star fleet intelligences Strengths I base this on the StarTrek:TNG Episode "Wounded" where in the The USS Phoenix has Gone rouge is in hot pursuit of a Cardassian supply ship; the Enterprise Crew is able too display the exact events at a distance out side the Enterprises Sensor range via navigation data this surprises Gal Macet, as he does not expect star fleet to be able to read the transponder codes of Cardassian ships This meant that at least in the late 2360's Star fleet Can Read And translate The transponder Codes of Cardassian Ships and possibly Klingon and others as well via there information sharing system.
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Postby FSF Truce » Tue Mar 23, 2010 4:39 pm

Very nice Ramsay, you touched on several aspects that I had thought about and mentioned and a couple that I hadn't as well. I'm pretty much of the same opinion that there is probably some sory of system in place, perhaps a few different systems depending on the situation. Of course the old star charts are always available to be used, and have been. It just doesn't seem to be the preferred primary method for the most accurate information.

Nicely done!
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Postby Dalchron » Sun Apr 18, 2010 11:10 am

I think that the sensors in the ships, as well as the star charts, and Subspace bouys, for Trek anyway, would limit the amount of lost ships. As long as the ships were either part of the Federation, or were at least subscribers to the system. That is my 2 cents worth. LOL
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