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Macrojump Drive

History

Macrojump drive (colloquially, "Mac" drive) was the first form of faster than light travel discovered by Humans.  Dr. Yan Rheyes and the Janus artificial intelligence sentient at the University of Chiron on Atlantis discovered the guiding physical principles and practical constraints in 2193CE after twelve years of research.  Macrojump technology is based on the Wexler Field Process (Wexler, et. al., 2041CE) that allows for the spontaneous random transportation of matter when exposed to a pure zero temperature field.  The Wexler Field proved useful as a disintegration bomb during the Last World War, but given the tendency for atoms within the field to randomly reappear in a large spherical volume surrounding the device, the Wexler Field had no practical application as a transport device. 

The Rheyes/Janus governor process created a hyper-entanglement field overlaying the Wexler field, causing an object to reappear completely intact exempting random effects below the Planck scale.  Transit range is limited by the precision of quantum computer calculations and sub-system manufacturing and by the availability of near instantaneous energy.  A macrojump drive generator requires approximately one terajoule to transport on cubic meter a distance of one light-year, necessitating an antimatter power source and extremely efficient high temperature energy absorption chambers for operation. 

The first uncrewed macrojump vessel was the Enterprise, an eight meter diameter robotic vessel first tested between Alpha Centauri B and A in 2196CE.  The first crewed vessel, Columbus, a ten meter vessel captained by Viggo Turki made its initial test flight to Proxima Centauri in 2199CE, followed by flights to Sol and Tau Ceti later in the year.  Columbus was limited to a range of 12 light-years, mostly because of computer and material limitations, and was plague by a high ignition chamber failure rate that was remedied in the follow-up Drake class of ten meter vessels.  By the end of the macrojump era, ships capable of 30 light-year jumps and operational radii of 400 light-years were possible. 

Macrojump travel is an instantaneous, rather violent process that puts considerable strain on organic matter, mental functions and computer circuitry.  Many species find this form of travel extremely uncomfortable or hazardous, and may require sedation or even hibernation for a successful transit.  Legends state that macrojump travel was fatal for the Founder race, forcing them to rely on alternative FTL travel methods, including their unique high-speed gravstar variant.  Quantum computers can only survive a macrojump transit in a completely shut down state. A macrojump field moves all mass within a spatial area, and as such, encourages dense ship designs, as volume, not mass, is the limiting factor. 

Macrojump drive remained the dominant form of Human interstellar travel until the invention of microjump drive in 2310CE and remained in service until just before the Secession War in the 2330s.  Atlantis rediscovered the technology in 2538CE, but it did not become dominant over the gravstar ships of the Kalmar Pact until Atlantis joined the Pact and shared the technology the 2570s.  Macrojump remained the primary FTL technology through the early Imperial period until the reemergence of microjump in the early thirtieth century, though macrojump military scout and rapid communication vessels remained in operation through the First Federation War period.

After the War of Disintegration and the eventual failure from age and Plague of worm drive vessels, macrojump again emerged as the dominant form of transport in Human Space in the early sixth millennium of the Common Era.  Chaotic Era macrojump vessels suffer from size restrictions based on the limitations of franduzu-based superconductors, making starships larger than 75 meters in diameter impossible to construct. Macrojump remains the dominate form of Human star travel , though some microjump vessels have entered service within the last few decades, mostly in the Star Kingdoms Confederation.

Dragon macrojump drive vessels continue to utilize their unique Type III engines, capable of a rough but extended 41 light-year jump.

Technological specifications

A macrojump drive system requires the perfection of several technologies: 

An integrated macrojump system consists of a redundant quantum computing core processor that controls the governor process, a series of twelve (Type I) or twenty (Type II) antimatter ignition chambers, a field generator and a series of stabilization conduits spread through the vessel structure with no more than five (Type Ia) to twelve (Type IIc) meter separation between conduits.  The macrojump field will only maintain cohesion in a spherical pattern emanating from the central field generator and ending at the outer hull conduits.  The volume outside the outer conduits, up to half the conduit separation limit, will also transit with the field, but with increasing spatial distortion.

The following table details macrojump performance at various stages of technological advancement:

Macrojump Drive Parameters Date of Introduction 
Type Chambers max grid jump
range
fail rate max dia First Dark Age Chaotic
Ia 12 5 12 0.08 30 2197 n/a 5003
Ib 12 7 16 0.06 42 2210 2538 5009
IIa 20 9 20 0.05 55 2225 2549 5236
IIb 20 12 25 0.04 72 2254 2713 5536
IIc 20 12 30 0.03 75 2278 2812 5827
III 24 12 41 0.04 70 - - Dragon

Type is the basic classification of the macrojump drive engine. Chambers is number of antimatter ignition chambers required to power the macrojump field generator.  Max grid specifies the maximum distance in meters between conduits in the stabilization grid; the region up to halfway beyond the outer hull is subject to macrojump transit, but is not considered safe for any complex structures, including living matter or electronics.  The grid separation will limit the size of internal cavities or external openings in a macrojump vessel.  The jump range is the maximum computational accurate range in light-years for a transit of that type; the range can be exceeded by up to 16% with the risk of increasingly dangerous side effects.  A specific vessel design might limit actual jump range, though usually to no less than 75% of the stated range.  The fail rate is the failure rate of individual ignition chambers during a jump; a failed ignition chamber does affect the current jump, but requires immediate replacement; most ships carry spares equal to the entire complement of chambers.  The max dia refers to the maximum diameter of a macrojump ship build using post Mech Plague technology.  Dates of introduction indicate the first use of each type during the Confederation and Dark Age/Early Imperial and Chaotic eras. 

Macrojump vessels sizes are expressed in meters diameter.  The following table details various vessel sizes and complementary information:

Size Volume
(m3)
Max crew Min crew Max pass Typical Purposes
8 268 3 1 9 Test
10 524 7 1 18 Scout; singleship
13 1,150 14 3 40 Scout
15 1,767 22 4 61 Scout
20 4,189 52 10 145 Scout, escort
25 8,181 102 20 283 Scout, escort
30 14,137 177 35 488 Scout, merchant, transport
35 22,449 281 56 775 Light bulk freighter
40 33,510 419 84 1,157 Frigate, troopship, light colony transport
45 47,713 596 119 1,648 Medium bulk freighter
50 65,450 818 164 2,260 Cruiser, medium colony transport
55 87,114 1,089 218 3,009 Battleship, carrier, heavy colony transport
60 113,097 1,414 283 3,906 Battleship, dreadnaught
65 143,793 1,797 359 4,966 Fleet carrier, heavy bulk freighter
70 179,594 2,245 449 6,203 Battle carrier
75 220,893 2,761 552 7,629 Post Plague Type IIc maximum size
80 268,083 3,351 670 9,259 ..
90 381,704 4,771 954 13,183 ..
100 523,599 6,545 1,309 18,084 ..
150 1,767,146 22,089 4,418 61,032 Hellking

The numbers in the above table are basic guides.  No known crewed 8m vessels were ever produced, and the Columbus and Drake class 10m explorers crammed a crew of eight into their vessels.  The largest macrojump vessel ever produced by Humans was the Eastern Battlestar; when rebuilt at Hachiman in 2803CE, this unique Type IIb vehicle incorporated twin macrojump generators, each producing an unprecedented 300m field.

Operational Considerations

The shortcut employed by Dr. Rheyes and Janus to provide a rational solution for the governor process limits macrojump travel to transits between the edges of large gravitational fields.  Additionally, macrojump travel is extremely stressful on crew and equipment.  This forced strict operational procedures and limited the effective speed of this essential instantaneous form of transportation.

Physical Considerations

A macrojump transit requires travel from one gravitational gradient to another equivalent gradient.  Objects with a mass of at least .015 solar masses (~500 Terran masses) have sufficient gravitational pull to initiate or terminate a macrojump transit. Ranges of travel vary by sophistication of the drive, with the basic parameters indicated in the table below:

Macrojump Drive Ranges

Type min AU max AU error km
Ia 4.70 40.63 350
Ib 4.50 44.70 300
IIa 4.10 49.47 150
IIb 3.90 55.95 100
IIc 3.70 60.44 75

This table assumes a central object of one solar mass and expresses ranges in astronomical units (~150Mkm).  Range varies proportional to the square of the mass of the central object. A particular transit can begin and terminate at any specified location within the range. The table indicates the standard deviation of the random emersion location error in kilometers.  This error factor is multiplied by the light-year distance of the transit, but divided by the mass of the target central object, allowing for greater accuracy in jumps to large stellar masses.  The error factor can result in emersions outside the specified range; such transits can result in damaged stabilization conduits and in extreme case might result in the emersion of a vessel inside the central mass.  For this reason long jumps to small masses are not recommended and jumps to brown dwarf systems are practically impossible. Performance of Dragon Type III drives are similar to those of human Type IIc.

Regardless of range or drive sophistication, a macrojump drive computation requires knowledge of the exact parameters of the initiation point and good knowledge of the exit point and is valid for only a thirty nanosecond interval.  It typically requires a standard ship quantum computer system eight to fourteen hours (the exact time required is not predictable) to produce the parameters for a single jump. Normally, computational procedures initiate no less than sixteen hours before a jump.  The main quantum computer system transfers the jump parameters to an input tablet inserted directly into the governor core and shuts down to prevent certain destruction from the macrojump effects.  If direct prior knowledge of initiation point conditions exists, a quantum computer can pre-program tablets for multiple jumps, though this procedure is generally limited to certain military or courier operations where rapid jump transits are necessary, as these tablets are strictly single-use devices contingent on exact space-time parameters. 

Most ship systems require considerable computer assistance, and are thus unavailable immediately prior to a macrojump transit.  Vacuum distillers and fusion power plants must shut down, and only absorption/storage panels are available to power life support systems.  Hyper-string pseudo-gravity compensators and generators must remain powered off during a jump. Full system shutdowns most follow completion of jump tablet creation and these generally require at least one half hour for vacuum distillation power plants and at least two hours for most fusion plants.  Only solid-state computing devices with circuitry larger than 60 nanometers can remain active during a transit.  Normally, a ship power and quantum computing system will require a full two hours to completely re-initialize all operational systems. 

Biological Considerations

"I like the new drives. There's no longer blood in my vomit after a jump." -Viggo Turki, after traveling aboard the North America, 2226.  A macrojump transit is hard on biological entities.  Most Humans experience pain, disorientation, vertigo and nausea even after a relatively smooth Type IIc transit.  Alimeen require full sedation to make a successful transit, and as mentioned above, some races, like the Founders, find the process fatal.

Since Humans survive the transit better than machines, few automated macrojump vessels were ever produced, and most suffered a high loss rate as one malfunction or another prevented the proper startup of automated systems.  However, the transit does damage a Human traveler.  A typical macrojump transit causes the equivalent of 30 rems damage to human tissue, easily repaired with standard nanomed anti-radiation treatments.  However, active nanomed agents, including most anagathic agents, suffer severe damage from a transit, requiring a reapplication of the treatment after each jump.  While occasional transits normally result in treatable biological degradation, repeated transits, as experienced by starship crews, can cause lasting damage that can usually only be repaired by a full regeneration.  A starship crew member can expect to require a full regeneration after every 200-300 transits to retain full biological function. Many professional contracts provide for the year-long regeneration process every 250 transits, but this may occur after as little as 10 years of active service and requires an additional half year of rehabilitation.  Also, even the best regeneration therapy can only be repeated a dozen times, effectively limiting Human crew lifespan.  As a result, the twenty-ninth century Imperial Navy considered 500 transits the equivalent of a full thirty year term of service and guaranteed two full regenerations to all service personnel with honorable discharges.  Homo Nobilis travelers suffer the same acute effects of a macrojump transit, but show no statistically significant signs of long term health effects.  Individuals with nanomed organ replacements or intelligent implants should not attempt macrojump transit. 

Transit Insanity is a documented but rare side-effect of macrojump, occurring in less than one in ten thousand transits and resulting in full dementia, normally requiring considerable treatment.  A less severe form, Acute Transit Psychosis occurs in three out of a hundred Humans, but it is possible to screen for susceptibility.  When it occurs, Acute Transit Psychosis generally last less than a day and well responds to sedation.  Repeated transits with a short timeframe (generally three jumps within a week) can greatly increase the chance of Acute Transit Psychosis, even in generally unsusceptible subjects. 

Normal transit effects include disorientation, vertigo and nausea and often involve some vomiting and persistent headache.  A trained and experienced traveler normally recovers mental capabilities within a few minutes, and other symptoms subside after a few hours.  It is not recommended to transit on a full stomach.

Dragon macrojump vessels, experience much rougher transits.  These are generally fatal to Alimeen and result in the deaths of two per thousand Human travelers, though Dragons suffer effects similar to Humans on a Human Type II transit.  Acute Transit Psychosis affects one in eight Human travelers on Dragon vessels. 

Effective Limitations

Given physical and computational limitations, transits are normally separated by at least forty-eight hours to allow full systems checks and computation of the next jump.  Normal peacetime operational rules specify a separation period of sixty hours between jumps to avoid serious medical side effects, limiting a Type IIc macrojump vessel to an effective maximum speed of 12 light-years per day in multi-jump voyages.  In-system travel times, to reach safe transit ranges and in instances where the central masses of a system block the next destination, can often add days, weeks, or months to the period between transits.  Ships employing vacuum distillation power sources also require time to both produce on-board antimatter for the next jump and to radiate the heat created during the distillation process. 

Ships employing a standard complement of spare ignition chambers and possessing a source of antimatter fuel have an effective maximum operational radius ranging from under 70 light- years for type Ia vessels to over 400 light-years for Type IIc vessels.  Type Ia vessels generally degrade after approximately 50 transits, Type Ib vessels remain operational approximately 200 transits, and Type II vessels generally last 1000 - 3000 transits.

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