Campaign of the Month: September 2014
Superluminal (also known as faster-than-light, or FTL) travel is an expensive and difficult endeavor that requires advanced technology to harness massive energies and manipulate the fabric of spacetime. It is also absolutely vital to human civilization in the 25th century, as without it, traveling between inhabited star systems would take years or decades, even with the most advanced conventional sublight engines.
Human FTL Propulsion
Human FTL travel is based on the principal of folding space to bring two distant points close together, and then crossing between those points nearly instantaneously. This is commonly referred to as either “jumping” or “folding”. The massive technological wonders that make this possible are not engines, but rather referred to as “drives” and are usually located deep within the protective hulls of the largest ships, close to the immense power sources needed to operate them. Most human craft smaller than escort size are incapable of FTL travel and rely on being towed or docked with larger FTL-capable ships.
In order to make feasible the complex calculations needed to travel interstellar distances, human FTL relies on the stabilizing anchors known as “jump beacons” – giant, quantum-entangled stations present in human systems that allow navigation computers to sync data from incredible distances before making a jump. These beacons must be constructed in an already inhabited system, then painstakingly towed at sub-light speeds to the target system over the course of years or even decades. As a result, human exploration is largely reliant on automated probes to locate systems that have the valuable resources to make reaching them worthwhile.
A jump aboard an FTL-capable human spacecraft is instantaneous as experienced by the onboard crew, but to the outside world the inbound ship may be detectable for hours or days by electromagnetic fluctuations and tachyon bursts at the point of re-entry into normal space-time.
Alien FTL Propulsion
Main Article: Shen
Shen FTL technology is largely similar to that of humans, though rather than crossing large distances by means of jump beacons, they utilize more frequent, shorter jumps – leapfrogging between the many dim, uninhabited dwarf stars that speckle the depths of interstellar space. This means that it takes them longer than a human vessel to travel between the same two star systems, but they have a vastly increased flexibility and are able to explore space much more readily.
Main Article: Hyksos
The little concrete information on the Hyksos that can be gleaned from rumor and classified reports indicates that they utilize a means of FTL propulsion fundamentally different than that used by humanity, sustaining what is theoretically known as an “Alcubierre Field” to warp a region of space, enabling them to travel locally at subluminal speeds while “apparently” traveling faster than light relative to the wider universe.
Though the math is understood theoretically, human scientists have yet to determine how the Hyksos might accomplish this method of propulsion. Moreover, even if it were feasible, there are significant dangers involved, such as the buildup and release of massive amounts of Hawking radiation as a result of the Alcubierre field.
Main Article: Autotheoi
No Autotheoi artifact with working FTL technology has ever been recovered. Yet evidence of their civilization is scattered across many systems and beyond the veil of human exploration.
One prevailing opinion among those who study this ancient and enigmatic race is that they may not have possessed FTL propulsion technology at all. Rather, due to their synthetic nature, they may have relied exclusively on faster-than-light information processing and communication combined with conventional subluminal travel.
Other authorities on the Autotheoi insist that they must have possessed some as yet undiscovered method of FTL travel.