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Microjump Drive

History

Microjump drive (colloquially, "Mike" drive) was first developed by Humans in the early 24th Century at the Troilus Skunkworks naval research facility in the Jovian Trailing Trojan asteroids.  The patent application form lists a team of fourteen scientists led by Vejay Khan as the developers of the technology.  Microjump technology is a complementary process to macrojump, using an overlapping set of sub-dimensions.  Rather than initiating long-range interstellar jumps, microjump drive cycles through three billion very short-range jumps every second.  This process allows a much less violent spatial transition than macrojump and allows travel to a larger range of destinations, including flat interstellar space.

The first prototype vessel made a series of short test flights in 2308.  The first crewed vessel, the CNX Cortez began trials in 2310, including public demonstration voyages to Atlantis and Libertas.  Although limited to a fixed speed of just under 4 light years per day, the greater flexibility, increased sustainability and lower stress of microjump travel allowed it to quickly supplant macrojump technology as the preferred method of interstellar travel.  Microjump field dynamics share some of the same design limitations as macrojump, encouraging the design of dense, spherical vessels. 

After the fall of the Confederation, the maintenance requirements of the sophisticated navigation computers and the atomic level tolerances of the conduit system led to the rapid decline and failure of surviving vessels within a century.  Microjump technology remerged in 2900 and incrementally improved over time with faster modes of travel becoming available, cumulating with Mode IV travel at 13.68 light years per day in the 37th Century.  The microjump drive powered the first mass production "personal" starships which became available to the wealth elite in the 32nd Century and to the masses by the 36th.  Worm drive technology supplanted microjump in the 39th Century, but non-production technological developments by the Ministry of Science demonstrated increased performance, up to the 41st Century Mode VII capable of over 33 light years per day that saw limited commercial use.

Microjump drive became the dominant interstellar travel technology in the Grand Federation after the withdrawal of the Founders.  Though the Heshar Era saw the return of worm drive vessels in many part of the Federation, microjump reemerged the main mode of travel in the post-Heshar period.  Microjump remains the dominant form of travel in the post-Plague Grand Federation, with most vessels capable of Mode II or Mode III speeds.  Human manufacturers, mostly within the Star King Confederation have produced some Mode I vessels and Mode II prototypes, but expense and limited production capacity have precluded a wide adoption by advanced Human states.

Technological Specifications

A microjump drive system requires a thorough understanding of hyper-string theory along with the development of and practical experimentation on macrojump transition effects.  Though microjump uses H5 rather than H4 as the third transitional hyperspatial dimension, stable field equation solutions require direct observation and analysis of macrojump residual quantum effects.  Additionally, microjump requires the development of the following technologies:

It is possible, though impractical, to build a microjump vessel without a vacuum distillation generator, though this will greatly limit range.  Much like a macrojump vessel, the microjump drive system consists of a central core of computing and power generation capacity located at the center of a spherical vessel.  However, the microjump vessel has a greater dependency on the hyper-sting conduit grid and requires localized computing devices every few meters along the grid to maintain system stability when jumping three times a nanosecond.  The reintroduction of microjump after the spread of the Mech Plague is mostly limited by post-Plauge quantum computing systems and monitored material technology.

With the microjump drive engaged, a vessel capable of a certain mode of travel has a fixed speed of transit, translating to a fixed jump distance.  Microjump vessels are not capable of deviating from the designed Mode, nor are vessels capable of traveling at different modes.  The following table details the possible modes of microjump travel:

Microjump Drive Parameters Days per
Mode Factor Speed ly/day Year m/jump max dia 100ly 500ly
I 2 1,427 3.91 2900 136.99 60.89 25.58 127.89
II 3 2,141 5.86 3105 205.49 91.33 17.05 85.26
III 5 3,568 9.77 3294 342.48 152.21 10.23 51.16
IV 7 4,995 13.68 3631 479.47 213.10 7.31 36.54
V* 11 7,849 21.50 3850 753.46 334.87 4.65 23.25
VI* 13 9,276 25.41 3935 890.45 395.75 3.94 19.68
VII* 17 12,130 33.23 4089 1164.43 517.53 3.01 15.05

Mode is the generic description of the hyper-string state of the microjump drive with a set capability; only Modes I through IV ever reached full production status in Human Space.  Factor indicates the multiplier of the hyper-string state, where the "base" number is 713.5 times light speed.  The factors indicate stable prime states that allow microjump travel.  Speed is the resultant microjump speed in C. Note that this is the only speed possible for a certain Mode: a microjump drive is either on or off and can only travel at the stated speed when powered on.  This speed is traditionally expressed in ly/day or light years per day.  Year indicates the date of introduction of a particular microjump mode during the Imperial Era.  The only mode in service during the Confederation Era was Mode I, developed in 2308.  A microjump ship jumps every 0.32 nanoseconds, traveling a fixed distance indicated by the m/jump column.  As a reemerging vessel must maintain a safe distance from its previously location, the max dia column indicates the maximum safe diameter of a Microjump vessel for a particular mode; note that regardless of mode, the maximum conduit grid separation within a Microjump vessel is 13.2 meters.  The days per columns indicate the days required to cross 100 and 500 light years, respectively, at continual microjump travel.  These numbers do not take into account periodic downtime for system recalibration and core radiation discharges; actual values will be 7-9% lower.

Operational Considerations

In a straight race, a macrojump drive vessel, with its long instantaneous jumps, can outrun a microjump vessel with ease.  However, microjump technology offers much greater control and operational continuity in interstellar travel.  It also has considerably fewer side effects than macrojump travel, and when properly maintained, allows for extended operations at longer ranges, even at the lowest mode of travel. 

Physical Considerations

A microjump drive can only operate in a low gravitational field environment.  Safe operating distances vary as an inverse square based on the mass of nearby bodies, expressed by the following table indicating gradients for stellar and planetary objects:

Mass km AU
Sol 293,070,000 1.9538
Terra 519,706 0.0035
Jupiter 9,267,687 0.0618

Here, mass is the standard Sol, Terran or Jupiter mass of the nearest body, km is the safe operating distance in kilometers, and AU is the safe operating distance in astronomical units.  This gradient is often expressed as 3.702X10-12 terra/kilometers2.  A microjump drive will not initialize within the safe operating limit, and will spontaneously terminate microjump operations upon reaching an unsafe gravitational gradient.  A forceful emergence at a gradient limit will cause alignment failure of the microjump conduit system, requiring at least a three day field maintenance overhaul before resuming microjump travel.

A microjump drive does not require a gravity gradient to end its voyage.  As a result, a normal drive shut down can occur anywhere in flat space, opening vast areas of near stellar and interstellar space and allowing voyages to rogue planets for the first time.  Microjump travel greatly assisted the exploration and exploitation of Sol's outer Kuiper region and the Oort region.  Zhretra Drifts and other deep space platforms require microjump or Worm drive vessels to maintain interstellar contact.

Biological Considerations

Microjump drive's most obvious benefit over macrojump is its lack of biological side effects.  Human travelers generally tolerate microjump travel very well, though a small subset (5-10%) require medication to avoid persistent nausea.  Long-term effects on the Human body are limited to an effective absorption of 0.4 rems per day of travel, or approximately 10% the damage of an equivalent length macrojump voyage.  Standard anti-radiation therapies easily compensate for this damage, and properly treated Humans can accumulate hundreds of years of microjump travel without health consequences.  Alimeen travelers report a much high rate of discomfort, though these symptoms are normally treatable by medication.

Effective Limitations

The major restrictions on microjump vessel performance relate to logistical, computational and thermodynamic considerations.  Mode I vessels require a day of microjump down-time for every eleven days of travel to dissipate built-up residual heat and recalibrate the microjump computers and conduit grid system.  Failure to adhere to this regimen will lead to an alignment failure or a heat damage to the system, requiring three to eight days of downtime to repair in the best circumstances.  Microjump vessels should also undergo periodic maintenance after every 180-240 days of drive operation.  This maintenance involves an overhaul of the entire core and conduit systems, a process that requires two to four weeks in a maintenance facility and a full shutdown of the vessel's vacuum distillers.  Field maintenance can replace a facility maintenance regime, but this requires sets of spares and diagnostic equipment and can take twice as long as at a maintenance facility.  Mode II-IV vessels can run for fifteen days before require a day of down-time, but require the same periodic maintenance procedures.

For normal operations, a microjump vessel has an operating radius of no more than 100 times its ly/day rating, though long range scouting and patrol vessels with onboard shop and repair facilities can operate at up to two times this range.  When properly maintained, a microjump vessel can accumulate up to eighty years of microjump travel before a full drive replacement, giving most vessels a useful lifetime of up to 200 years.

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