Interstellar Travel

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Interstellar travel would be impossible without superluminal motion technologies. In the Alliance at the moment, there are several theoretical ways to exceed the speed of light, but only one of them is accessible - the hypergenerator on the Hephrene gas.

The dimensions of the device vary, as well as its appearance, but one design feature remains unchanged - one or several of the circular contours filled with hephrene, which provides the necessary conditions for creating spatial distortion used for FTL travel. The performance characteristics of the generator depend on the number and size of the contours. In general, a typical hypergenerator can help a ship to traverse roughly 30-40 light years per day. Hypergenerator is the most important piece of technology discovered from studying the Ancient artifacts, and currently, one of the primary pieces of technology that make use of the hephrene, after energy production. Comparatively to the function, its structure remains questionably simple (relatively speaking), and to this day there is no accepted theory of the specifics of how it works. One of the highly debated theories postulates that the generator itself actually does pretty much nothing in relation to the creation of spacetime distortion, but is actually just an access terminal of sorts to something else, extradimensional machinery of the Ancients, that does the actual heavy lifting of creating the wormhole. This theory, while explaining why the hypergenerator appears to be so simple in design, can provide no evidence to support itself, however.

The hypergenerator is capable of creating distortions of space, connecting two points of the three-dimensional world with a short road - a wormhole[1]. The wormhole originally created has a microscopic diameter of approximately 10^-18 meters, with the hypergenerator pushing it to the required size, allowing the ship to pass through it. The wormhole has a non-zero length, depending on the distance between the exit points. The diameter of the wormhole is also very different depending on the position of the ship in it, somewhat resembling the analogy with a ball pushed through the elastic gut: if it is far from the ship, the size of the wormhole is reduced to the original "natural" 10^-18 meters. Therefore, despite the fact that the wormhole exists all the time while the hypergenerator is working, it cannot be detected if the ship is far from one of its exits. Theoretically, a specially tuned hypergenerator can pick up an existing wormhole and re-expand it, In practice, however, it should be at a distance of no more than 10 meters from it, which is practically impossible on a cosmic scale. Since the wormhole exists only while the hypergenerator is running, a breakdown or premature shutdown of the device leads to the collapse of the wormhole. What exactly happens to a spacecraft that is currently in transit through the wormhole is not known for certain, but it most likely ceases to exist as ordinary matter, turning into a microscopic universe filled with quark-gluon plasma lost somewhere outside the known three-dimensional space. The ship cannot receive any signals while in the wormhole and it cannot be detected until it reaches the exit from the wormhole.

Stages of transit through a star system:

STAGE 1: Ship arrives in the system from the wormhole, surveys the surroundings, and choses the next jump target.
STAGE 2: Ship begins to move towards the point in the system from where the trajectory of matching velocity with the target system will put it in the jump cone.
STAGE 3: Ship arrives at the point and begins matching the relative velocity with the target system
STAGE 4: Once velocity vectors match and the ship enters the jump cone, it activates hypergenerator and begins FTL jump to the next system.

The physical laws that allow the formation of wormholes are currently not studied, despite the fact that the externally definable properties of the wormhole are completely measurable. In particular, the wormholes are sensitive to gravitational disturbances - the opening of a stable wormhole is possible only at a certain distance from the planets, depending on the depth of their gravity well. Another important factor in wormhole stability is the relative speed with regards to nearby massive objects. If the speed exceeds a certain limit, the wormhole also refuses to form, even if it is at a safe distance from the object. Theoretically, this should make it impossible to violate causality through the use of a hypergenerator, but research on this topic has not been conducted. More alarmingly, the ships sometimes disappear without a trace, entering the wormhole in one system, but never appearing at the destination or anywhere else. Among the many speculations about the causes, one of the most popular is that the probable violations of causality are suppressed in this way, despite the fact that it wouldn't seem obvious from the trajectory calculations. The main accepted explanation is considered to be hypergenerator malfunction during the transit.

When creating a wormhole, hypergenerators take a decent amount of computing power from the ship's computer centers, and much of the most important calculations consist of accurately determining the coordinates, speed, and trajectory of the wormhole output relative to its input. However, most calculations are probabilistic in nature, due to the fact that information about the exit point is always outdated due to the speed limit of light.

This, together with the build quality of the hypergenerator itself, is one of the factors of the final accuracy - while the old unsynchronized hypergenerator can produce a random exit point in a sphere with a radius of up to 1.5 a.e, even the highest quality and most accurate hypergenerators gave a record accuracy with an error margin of 5000 kilometers. Furthermore, closest massive objects add to the error margin, with some of the most massive stars make it impossible to have error margin smaller than 20 a.e. Since the wormhole apparently has the smallest possible length, as well as the fact that the hypergenerator consumes significant amounts of energy during the initial phase of the jump, it makes the hypergenerator effective only at distances exceeding 1 light day. Another limiting factor is the need for the most massive body of the system from which the jump is made, the system into which the jump is performed, and the ship making the jump to be on approximately the same line (Both ship and destination system must fit into a cone with an angular size of 14° from the center of mass of the most massive object of the system), regardless of the current velocity vector of the ship.

Hypergenerators are capable of working in a master/slave setup, which makes it possible to coordinate jumps for groups of ships. In this case, the destination of the jump and the main wormhole is set by the master hypergenerator, and the slave hypergenerators expand the wormhole to the required size to allow the entire group of ships through. However, this technique is limited by the fact that ships must be grouped extremely tightly, and because of this, the upper bar of the group usually cannot exceed more than 10 ships. Particularly large ships, such as the Dawn mobile base, can link with more hypergenerators, up to a hundred, due to the fact that the generated main wormhole itself expands significantly more.

The hypergenerator is currently a black box as a technology. Despite the fact that its design can be replicated, and improvements affecting the characteristics of the generator are possible, the basic physical principles of its operation remain a complete mystery. All hypergenerators used by all currently known civilizations, with the possible exception of Sm'tar, are copies of the found artifacts of the Ancients. Given that most of the artifacts of the Ancients themselves are poorly exposed to study and reverse engineering (and more often they remain a complete mystery, despite all the efforts to study them), it seems that the original artifacts-hypergenerators were “intentionally” created in the form allowing "younger civilizations" to copy them when they are found. The reasons for this are unknown.

One of the theories gaining popularity, based on a thorough study of all the determinant properties of a hypergenerator, suggests that the hypergenerator itself does not directly generate a wormhole, but acts more as a kind of remote control to some kind of machinery complex of the Ancients, presumably located outside of the normal space-time, which to some extent explains the relative simplicity of the device in comparison to its abilities.

  1. Though the name is misleading. The created effect acts nothing like the wormholes predicted by the physic models, and as such can't be a real wormhole, but the name stuck anyway.