The Tech Side #3: Imperial Starships – Artificial Gravity Systems


In this series of articles – The Tech Side – I’ll be continuing talking about various bits of different tech, what gave me the ideas for them, and a little about what I did with them in various stories.

This time, I’ll be taking a look at the artifical gravity system onboard Imperial starships of the Terran Space Fleet!

This will be quite a heavy subject (pun intended) as we’ll be discussing the need for artificial gravity in space! Gravity is very important, and not just because everything the crew would try to leave anywhere, would float away and cause a massive clutter problem – but also for reasons of health! You see, in zero gravity, Human physiology weakens. Muscles atrophy during extended stays in zero gravity, including the heart muscle. Personnel aboard the ISS (International Space Station) spend a lot of time exercising to keep fit and to delay muscle loss during their tours in orbit.

[Incidentally, in order to see the rest of these articles in this series, click on the category name The Tech Side.]

Rather than opt for the rotating centrifugal option seen in space stations and space ships (such as in “2001: A Space Odyssey” for example – and more recently in “The Expanse”) ships in Galaxii and my other series all use artificial gravity systems to keep their crews – well, grounded!

How would this work? Well, I put a lot of thought into this. A quick search of the internet on the subject will bring up results like this, this and this – which all appear to concentrate on centrifugal force – that is, either putting people in a tin can and swinging it around an axis to create an outward force simulating gravity, or using magnetism (in various ways) to pull them downwards. A few articles I found discuss the use of gravitons – tiny particles that carry the gravitational force – but which (up to 2016 at least) have remained theoretical… which is another way of saying “we think this is how it works, but we haven’t been abe to prove it yet”. Gravitons – while referred to in science and science fiction quite a lot (I remember the Mekon using gravitons in his plus-gravity ray back in the 1980’s Dan Dare comic!) and are still apparently quite controversial because they haven’t been detected or proven to exist yet.

Since the existence of gravitons remains speculative (i.e. theoretical) I decided to not mention ‘gravitons’ specifically in my writing, but to rather insert an element called “Workaroundium” instead.

In terms of approaching the science of artificial gravity in my writing, I opted to attack the middle ground – that’s to say, I didn’t use the centrifugal form of simulated iintertia-induced gravity since well, it all looks so untidy to me! Instead, I decided to use something like the theorized gravitons in a kind of “artificial gravity generator” which would be quite small and easy to manufacture and replicate – about the size of the 10 watt loudspeaker unit found in your car! It would be big enough to hold in your hand, consisting of a square or circular module which connects to the ship’s power and control circuits, and underneath it, a graviton directional transmission cone through which the device emits gravitons in a direction away from the unit. The schematic below is how I imagine the item would look:

Naturally, if you’re following what I’ve been saying closely, the wheels in your mind are turning over – and you’ll recognize that this would create a steady, constant stream of thrust – and invisible force pushing all matter away from the emitter up to it’s maximum range – er, whatever that would be! Considering the uses for such a device, I think it could also be adapted (in higher output versions) for use as maneuvering thrusters on shuttles and ships, or to build containment fields for antimatter in conventional warp engines, etc.

In Galaxii, there are thousands of these individual devices installed on each starship! In the diagram below, you will see that basically for each square meter of deck space, there would be roughly 4 individual units to ensure there is gravity on that square meter! The units (in purple) are installed in the ceiling, above the floor or walkway, since the force they emit repels objects – and where else do we want our feet, but firmly planted on the deck?

From the side, you will see the Artificial Gravity Generators (in purple), and the downward force emitted from them in yellow cones (which would be invisible) overlapping to ensure that there aren’t any gaps in the field. In the next illustration below, you will see the same thing from above.

Naturally these units are all connected together to form a network – which is what I refer to in my stories in Galaxii, Quantum and Panic! Horror In Space, as a “gravity net”. The gravity net of a space ship or space station would have to be controllable – that’s to say, able to be increased or decreased according to specific requirements – however it’s more than likely that the “normal” setting would be 1g (or 1 Earth gravity, or in other words, the same as we would experience on Earth). This would also come in useful in cities or outposts built on lower gravity worlds, such as Luna or Mars for example.

When the gravity net of a ship in deep space fails or cuts out (like it did in “Loderunner“, everything becomes weightless – including the crew – and getting around quickly tends to get a little more difficult – especially if you have to “swim” through a corridor filled with floating debris! Since this is always a possibility, crews would need to have extensive zero-g training in Basic, and the gravity net would also have to be considered one of the ship’s primary life-support systems connected directly to the ship’s emergency batteries by default, to prevent failures as far as possible!

There might be a few negative aspects to this sort of gravity system, such as the generated gravitational force being more intense closer to the emitter source – which is also where a Human head would be – resulting constant pressure might cause the crew a few headaches, but I’m sure there would be plenty more “Workaroundium” to – well, go around! Good thing they’re adjustable! *wink*

In Closing

That about covers it! I hope I’ve explained all this in a way that’s easily understood! I really enjoyed translating my original hand-drawn sketches into digital blueprint diagrams, and I think they look pretty neat that way!

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!

Until next time,

Cheers! 🙂

P.S.

If you’re reading this long after it was posted, click “The Tech Side” to see a list of all the articles posted in this series!


TIP: If you want to know what Christina Engela writes, or who her focus group or target market is, please read here.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.

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