The Tech Side #13 Imperial Starships – Battlespringers

In the Galaxii universe, battlespringers are scaled-down compact starships used by the Terran Space Fleet. Several of my stories are set aboard battlespringers, for example short stories, “The Devils In The Sky” and “Beyond”, so my readers should be slightly familiar with these ships.

When I first envisioned battlespringers, how they looked in my minds’ eye then was a little more vague and different. They were a little rough perhaps, but as time went by my vision of them crystalized and became somewhat clearer and more exacting – as was necessary when I set one of my series aboard a starship of this type. All titles in the Panic! Horror In Space series feature the I.S.S. Mercury, also a battlespringer.

Today in The Tech Side, we take a closer look at the battlespringer.

The Pioneer Fleet is a specialized branch of the Terran Space Fleet whose main purpose is to explore the far reaches of known space, and also, sometimes, to patrol the frontier. The Pioneer Fleet almost exclusively uses battlespringers for this purpose, precisely because – as they’re the smallest starships of the Space Fleet – they’re fast and well armed, and run on a modestly sized crew, which also means there can be more of them to do the job better.

First, let’s take a quick look at the origins of this sort of ship.

A Little Background:

Battlespringers are a type of military starship that (in terms of size, capability and crew compliment) fit in somewhere below a destroyer of the Terran Space Fleet.

In the context of their origin, battlespringers first appeared very shortly after the end of the Gimp War – almost immediately after “Best Served Cold”, about a century or so before the start of Galaxii.

Up to that point, the Space Fleet’s predecessor, the Earth Defense Fleet (EDF) had been using small ships – called Destroyers, which could be likened to something like a B-17 bomber, carried seven crew and a light armament. That was the Phoenix class, a short range sub-light engined craft which had been used in vast numbers, and which also suffered heavy losses during the five year run of the Gimp War. By the end of the war, the EDF had built several impressive ships – none of them designed to be starships – including a number of cruisers which participated in the Battle of Pluto, in which the invading Gimp were routed, marking the end of the war.

Once the Gimp War was over (or nearly over) the top brass of the Space Fleet began to consider Earth’s next move – which would be to venture out into interstellar space. To achieve this, they needed a class of ship large enough to defend itself effectively, carry all necessary equipment to be virtually independent and yet small enough to operate on a crew smaller than two hundred.

Their cruisers at the time couldn’t do this, since they weren’t equipped with stardrive – that technology still had to be developed fully. One example, reverse-engineered from captured Ruminarii ships and wrecks, had been built, but had yet to be properly tested and adapted. Cruisers were also large, clunky and took vast resources to manufacture – as well as time. This was their main focus at the end of the war, and the top brass realized they needed a new type of ship.

To this end, they created the battlespringer, which slotted neatly between the old Phoenix class destroyers and these late-war sublight cruisers.

The first batch of battlespringers were the first examples of the Ningan Class. The name ‘ningan’ was inspired by the Japanese ninja – and in fact, in the first draft of the design requirements advertised by the Terran Defense Directorate specified the name ‘ninjan’, and not ‘ningan’. At some point, perhaps due to internal politics in the upper echelons of the Fleet, this inexplicably changed to the current spelling. In any case, regardless of how it has been spelt, it has always been pronounced ‘ninjan’.

Since that time, Battlespringers have remained the smallest class of independent, autonomous Space Fleet vessels equipped for deep space interstellar travel. The Main Fleet (whose more stated purpose is military) doesn’t have many of these, and they are used far more by the Pioneer Fleet on account of their smaller size and crew requirements than newer classes of destroyers, while carrying roughly the same armament and holding the same speed capability and response time. Their crew capacity tends to vary between 150 and 200 (although older models were equipped to carry less) and usually includes a platoon of Security Marines (20).

Battlespringers remain the backbone of the Pioneer Fleet and are still manufactured while those already in service are regularly upgraded. In the time of Galaxii and Panic!, some examples are more than a century old.

A Few Interesting Facts:

  • The prefix “I.S.S.” stands for “Imperial Star Ship”. All Space Fleet starships since the foundation of the Space Fleet carry this prefix before their designated names, but also have registry numbers to identify them.
  • The Darraine’s Space Fleet registry number is AT-101. The Titan’s is H-115 and Mercury is P-476.
  • To date, there’s only ever been one class of battlespringer – the Ningan Class.
  • Battlespringers were regarded as very special because they were the first ships specifically designed to make interstellar trips at faster-than-light speed. They were regarded as Earth’s first real starships.
  • The I.S.S. Darraine, one of the earliest battlespringers, was the first Terran starship to leave Humanity’s home solar system, at least, on purpose (“Beyond”). Another, different ship had done so previously, but that had been completely by accident – and anyway, it’d never been heard from again (“Best Served Cold”) – and that’s a subject perhaps, for a different article.
  • At the time of its first historic voyage as the first Terran starship, the Darraine was commanded by Captain Lisa Barnes, a veteran of the Gimp War, and the first transgender starship captain.
  • The I.S.S. Titan, commanded by Captain Dayne Ortez, was involved in a ‘test of strength’ with a hostile alien vessel which attacked them without provocation or warning (“The Devils In The Sky”).
  • The I.S.S. Mercury is the setting for “Panic! Horror In Space”. The ship is commanded by Captain Stuart Flane, and has been assailed by everything from alien nanite-controlled zombies to poltergeists!

Brief External Schematics:

Diagrams of a typical Ningan class ship below are labeled for your ease of reference:

What’s Inside?

Battlespringers are considered by their crews to be somewhat small and cramped inside – in fact, there’s a running joke in the Fleet about battlespringers having bucket-seats on the bridge in order to save space! In truth however, battlespringer internal dimensions are only slightly less than those of the larger ships, but there was a concerted effort to keep the ships smaller over-all.

In spite of this, battlespringers feature the same amenities and facilities as other types and classes of Terran starships, but carry fewer crew and therefore a lot of space is saved in terms of living-area, a less expansive corridor network and fewer internal elevators etc. To compound the feeling of restricted space, dimensions of cabins, rooms and corridors are notably smaller.

Now that we’ve had a casual look around the broader descriptions of the Ningan Class ships, let’s take a closer look at the detail.

The Bridge Complex:

The bridge aboard ship is where most of the action happens! There’s more to the bridge than just the bridge – there’s a few other things linked to it in order to optimize efficiency, as you will discover.

As with many things, so the story goes, there was a call to standardize various different aspects of the ships the Fleet used; from conventional aspects involving where the bridge should be in relation to the rest of the ship, to conventions around the layout of corridors and placement of different important places such as sickbay, maintenance, the mess hall, and so on. After all, it’s no use if new crewmembers arrive on a ship that’s so different to the previous one they were on, that they get lost looking for their duty station!

To circumvent just such problems from arising, the people in charge of the Space Fleet laid out a requirement for all future ship designs to be laid out internally in such a way as to be similar – and familiar to their crews. Part of this approach to standardized layout, is the standardized bridge complex. Now before I continue, I should explain exactly what the bridge complex is.

The bridge naturally is the control center of a ship – everything critical to the control and direction of the ship is located there, but there are also other critical systems that the Fleet’s chiefs wanted located in the same immediate vicinity of the bridge itself to both connect it to the rest of the ship, as well as to facilitate the enhanced functioning of the bridge.

As with virtually everything aboard a battlespringer, dimensions are slightly smaller than those of other ships. 

Let’s start off by looking at the bridge first:

The Bridge

The bridge is the control center of the ship; the bridge is normally situated somewhere in front or on top of a Terran starship. Everything on the ship can normally be controlled from the systems and control consoles on the bridge.

Later battlespringers have such a standardized bridge complex – which consists of the Bridge, Captain’s Flat, the Captain’s office, a briefing room, waiting area, and of course, ablution facilities for crew on duty. Earlier versions are less centralized, and it’s felt that refitting older ships in such a way might be too invasive.

And now, the rest of the bridge complex:

The Captain’s Flat

Being Captain of a starship isn’t about luxury, but command does have several privileges – not the least of which is having the largest apartment on the ship! I also moved the Captain’s apartment close to the bridge for the same reason, and if you look at the layout in the accompanying diagrams, you’ll see how it connects both to the bridge and conference room via the Captain’s office – where he or she would also handle various administrative duties while not actually on the bridge.

The Captain’s Flat or apartment is generally private, and off-limits to other crew members, unless by specific invitation. When the Captain isn’t on the bridge, he or she might be inspecting parts of the ship, or catching up on reports or admin in the office – where the Captain is also usually expected to see crew members on official matters, such as relating to discipline or regarding their careers!

The Captain’s Office

The Captain’s Office is reachable via the Alcove adjoining the Foyer outside the bridge, and privately from inside the Captain’s apartment. The Captain’s apartment also has a “front door” through the lounge, which opens into a private portion of the corridor leading to the rest of the deck. The reason for this privacy is to allow the Captain to not be bothered during down-time by busy crew.

The Alcove

The Alcove serves as a waiting area, for those waiting to see the Captain in their office, or to be called into a briefing or meeting in the adjoining Conference Room. It’s purpose is to enhance privacy in terms of both uses, also to ensure that the bridge crew remain undisturbed in their efforts to run the ship.

The Conference Room

This is pretty standard fare for a conference room – containing a table long enough to seat the Captain, Exo and all the ship’s heads of department and a few extra seats. There are all the multimedia features one would expect, including holographic projectors, and few tasteful decor items arranged in shelves along the sides. In the event of courts martial, the room can be rearranged accordingly. Conference rooms feature prominently in the following stories: “Blachart” and “Dead Beckoning“.

The Foyer

The Foyer has several entrances, the largest of which is the main archway (sometimes closed off with a transparent partition or doorway for increased security or privacy), followed by the entrance to the Alcove, an entrance to the adjoining bathroom opposite that for bridge crew on duty, and beside that, a corridor leading to the rest of the deck, and in the center opposite the archway leading into the bridge, two elevators leading to lower decks on the ship. A pair of security marines is usually on duty in the Alcove, standing at ease and awaiting instructions or for an incident to occur that requires their involvement. Between the two elevator entrances, there is usually a display panel used to display miscellaneous information, like a digital notice board.

The Bathroom

I’ve often found it strange that sci-fi shows never seem to consider the worth of a well-placed bathroom. I mean, imagine for a moment that some poor sap on the bridge develops a stomach ailment while on duty and has to run down half a mile of corridors to find a loo? Could get messy!

Although pretty straightforward, this feature enables crew on duty to quickly refresh and be back at their stations in a matter of minutes. Aside from several unisex stalls, this room also has a few luxuries such as mirrors, basins and driers and so on. The bathroom is also the location of an emergency first aid station. Just like the old saying about guns – I’d rather have one handy and not need it, than need one and not have it!

The Elevators

These travel the height of the ship, from the topmost deck, right to the very bottom. Although these aren’t the only two , or sometimes more elevators onboard – depending on the size and class of ship of course – they are the two primary ones.

The Med-plex:

Sickbays on Space Fleet ships all come equipped with an airlock at the main entrance which is handy in times of threatening epidemics for decontamination ‘baths’ using sanitizing energy blasts which has been described as ‘a disco-light show’ by crews in the past. For the rest of the time, this airlock remains open and unused and quite unobtrusive.

There is a string of medical security precautions that protect a starship’s sickbay from the rest of the ship – and conversely, the rest of the ship from sickbay! This includes an array of biohazard filters on air supply and recycling – in fact, the sickbay runs on its own sealed sub-system (when the airlock at the entrance is activated). The life-support system and medical instruments run directly off the emergency reserves and are unaffected if the rest of the ship is plunged into darkness if the main power goes offline for any reason.

Beyond the entrance to sickbay, is a row of treatment beds which varies in context of the size of the ship, the crew and consequently, the sickbay itself.

Want to know what the heck happened here? See “Static“.

With most medical procedures at this time being bloodless and non-invasive, an operating theater for surgeries has long since faded into medical history – but there is a corner of every sickbay set aside for physical interventions and critical treatment of trauma. For the most part, medical treatments are administered to patients either while consulting the C-Med in the office, a nursing assistant, or in one of the beds in sickbay. Seriously ill or injured patients are kept in the sickbay, while routine patients are given bedrest in their quarters. A small bathroom is situated beside the sickbay for use of staff, visitors and patients, and includes a shower and real bath facility.

The complex includes a small well-equipped laboratory area for analyzing medical samples and developing treatments right down to the genetic level. Understandably, as a precaution, this lab as well as the quarantine ward beside it are treated as a potential biohazard and is kept closed and sealed at all times. The lab is equipped with a disintegrator booth (called an ‘autoclave’) about the size of a microwave oven, which is used to destroy hazardous biological materials within the lab, i.e. in a petri-dish or sample case.

Also, for various reasons, it has been deemed prudent for a direct tie-in to the ships’ security system to be available via the sickbay’s computers, with appropriate access protocols and security measures to ensure it is used only when justified.

In order to ensure that the Chief Medical Officer (or C-Med) is close at hand near the sickbay, the Med-Plex also includes the doctor’s modest accommodations, which also adjoin an office.

A Few Technical Features:

Transmatters:

The transmatter – or transporters, teleporters or matter transmitters, as readers may know them by different sources, is a pretty nifty way of getting around in our sci-fi future! Although the characters in Galaxii, Quantum or Panic! wouldn’t be caught dead saying “beam me up, Scotty”, the transmatter in my series has become a mainstay form of fast inter-ship transportation. Shuttles or docking stations in planetary orbit are still the preferred means of arrival in this sci-fi universe however, and so most transmatter systems are relatively short range – being considered safe at a range of just a few kilometers distance!

You may be wondering why I opted to include teleportation in my series, and I can tell you right away, because it’s a fascinating way to travel, and it makes a lot of sense… that is, if you can get past making up pseudo-scientific explanations of how these things are supposed to work in a way that sounds scientifically plausible – without getting eviscerated by avid sci-fi fans who also keep abreast of current scientific theory and studies! I discuss the science behind how these fascinating devices work here.

In Galaxii and my other series as well, the transmatter is a teleportation device in general use on starships, space stations, loderunners and even onboard luxury space liners! Their use is not restricted to the military, even though they have their strategic advantages!

Typically the crew of the ship uses these devices to teleport from their ships to other ships without having to use a shuttle, or to spacewalk between ships while wearing viro-suits!

Onboard a starship, the compartment in which the transmatter is located is commonly referred to as a “transmatter chamber“, or just a “transmatter”. Although there are many configurations, the most common, typical layout is the one demonstrated in the diagrams below. The scale is approximate, but the size of the device and its carrying capacity are generally dictated by its specific application, and the size of the ship and crew compliment etc. as well as how much power is available at any specific time it is needed.

A commercial space liner might use one to teleport its passengers to and from the surface of a planet being visited, so it would likely have a larger jump platform than those aboard a Terran warship for example. I’m sure the risks posed by such a device would create an entirely new sub-department in most insurance firms!

Battlespringers generally use the typical arrangement shown here, which saves space. The general layout is applicable across the board; in that transmatters consist of primarily a raised platform (referred to as a “jump platform“) which contains most of the working components of the transmatter device.

A short distance away from the alcove or jump platform, there is a control desk from where the device is operated, positioned in order for the operator to have a good view of the people either leaving or arriving, and for ease of communication with them.

Gravity Systems:

Terran starships use a form of artificial gravity generator – which is essentially a connected network of small units connected to the ship’s power and control circuits. These devices emit gravitons in a directional flow away from themselves. 

There are thousands of these individual devices installed on a single ship! In the diagrams 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 – so they press downward against everything in range to keep the crew’s feet firmly planted on the deck!

These units are all connected together to form a network – which is what I refer to as a “gravity net”. The gravity net is controllable and variable – 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 also comes in useful in cities or outposts built on lower gravity worlds, such as Luna or Mars for example.

Armament:

Defensive

Ningan class ships are equipped with a variety of different types of energy shields that form an invisible bubble around the ship to protect it from different types of harmful energies as well as physical threats such as projectiles, meteorites, torpedoes etc. These can all be deployed separately or at once in a sort of layered defensive structure.

Offensive

Most Space Fleet ships are armed with slamtorpedoes and ion canon. Most of the older ships have undergone numerous upgrades to include changes and improvements to various different technologies and systems, and weapons are no exception.

Ion cannon

Ion canon is a subcategory of energy weapon which can include everything from lasers to plasma weapons.

Slamtorpedoes

A slamtorpedo is a self-propelled guided missile roughly the size of a small sedan. It’s streamlined in appearance and is able to carry a range of payloads.

Each slamtorpedo consists of three modules – beginning at the front end, the payload/warhead, in the center, the avionics package, and at the back the drive module. Below, a separated, color-coded diagram:

Slamtorpedoes are armed with an array of choices – each of which is preselected by the weapons operator on the ship’s bridge according to the nature of the mission and/or the type or classification of the target. Choices include the rather ordinary HE (High Explosive) option, followed by more exotic fare like AM (Anti-Matter), TN (Tactical Nuke), TP (Thermite Plasma) – and an adaptable variety of others.

The lightweight avionics package handles the mechanical control of the entire torpedo from activation to target. This sophisticated computer effectively turns the torpedo into a ‘smart bomb’, which multiplies it’s useful applications tenfold. Not only can it operate as a simple, basic ship-to-target missile, but using its instruments and sensors, can also independently follow, track, trace, strategize and attack its designated target. 

The propulsion system of the slamtorpedo consists of three stern EM thrusters and a number of graviton thrusters for attitude adjustment. Although the torpedo is launched  from an EM catapult, which launches it at an already high speed, the EM drive takes over to maintain that speed, accelerate or change course, depending on the sort of guidance directives set into its computer.

Weapons Hubs

Ningan class ships carry two weapons hubs which house both slamtorpedoes and ion cannon – and the placement of these on battlespringers differs from those of most larger vessels. While weapons hubs are aligned vertically on larger ship’s axis; dorsal (above) and ventral (below), battlespringers differ from this doctrine in that their weapons hubs are placed port and starboard and are located on the end of the corresponding engine pylons. The main reason for this is size, and as such, battlespringer weapons hubs – while fulfilling the same function, are scaled-down versions. Naturally this also implies a reduced output or performance.

In brief, the port and starboard weapons hubs contain launchers for slamtorpedoes, laser cannons and other weapons typically carried on a warship. Weapons hubs in a sense resemble the turrets on seaborne battleships of old, although all their gear is stored inboard, and weapons hubs can have several separate platforms, rotating around the same central axis, and sometimes smaller independent axes in order to get the selected weapon on target while in motion, or to select multiple targets wherever their position on the clock.

The role played by placing these all on two central weapons platforms improves both aiming, firing and supply of torpedoes, rather than having to mount static launchers at fore, midship and aft positions, each with their own individual weapons and added complications.

What’s the point of the weapons hub? Well, in simple terms, it’s to assist the targeting computer in getting as many shots fired (torpedo or energy beam weapons) as quickly as possible and as accurately as possible – without having to first guide them around the curvature of the ship’s hull for example. The platform rotates along the horizontal axis, and there are several of each weapon type arranged around the circular platform opposite each other in banks. As the hub rotates to bring the most appropriate (or selected) weapon round or closer to the target, it shortens the distance (and time) from firing to delivery – and can fire multiple repeat shots of the same.

The weapons hub system really comes into its own when the ship is engaged by multiple targets, and since there are two hubs, both cover the ship together and provide a 360 degree coverage (at medium to long range). The targeting computer can now target and fire on multiple targets virtually simultaneously, whereas before it first had to fire at one target, and then wait for the torpedo launcher to reload before engaging the next target.

The advantage of the new system over the old then, could be compared to the difference between a semi-automatic pistol and a machine-gun with an integral RPG launcher.

Schematic

As visible in the diagram above, a Ningan Class ship like the Mercury has two weapons hubs – one on the port side, and the other to starboard. The ideal location for the torpedo production plant would be somewhere between the two, since it will supply torpedoes to both hubs, which run along the inside of the two main engine pylons. This supply chain consists of a number of drive or conveyor belts which ensure a reliable, efficient supply of slamtorpedoes to the torpedo launchers in both weapons hubs. In this example, the general location of the torpedo production plant (TPP) is indicated by the demarcated area amidships.

Torpedo Production Plant (TPP)

Once transmatter and replication technologies became refined enough, starships came fitted with onboard torpedo production plants. In simplified terms, this device uses transmatter technology to create an endless supply of flawless copies of slamtorpedoes based on a variety of templates stored in memory, as needed. The newly created torpedo is then routed to the appropriate weapons hub via a bilateral coupling and a system of belts which feeds torpedoes to both hubs. A more in-depth explanation is provided here. This system can operate at a fairly high speed, considerably higher than the previous canonical layout of having fixed torpedo launchers at the front of the ship, and perhaps a few along the sides and stern. In fact, as well as appearing as original equipment in new ships, it’s been so effective that it’s been retro-fitted to older ships as well.

Weapons Hubs (simplified outline)

As there are two weapons hubs on each vessel, both are to be mirror-images of each other, and this can be seen clearly in the next diagrams:

Although the Terran Empire isn’t a war-like entity, it has long-ago learned the wisdom in the old adage “it’s better to be safe than sorry”. Weapons hubs dramatically increased a single warship’s firing rate for both slamtorpedoes and ion canon, even simultaneously and without putting much of a greater strain on ship’s energy resources – although an increase in generated power was later made across the board to compensate.

Thanks to this arrangement, a single battlespringer like the Titan can now very much achieve strategically what it previously took several larger Terran warships to do in an engagement. The addition of this capability has made Terran warships fearsome to any adversary, and what better deterrent is there to anyone thinking of war with the Terrans than counting what it would end up costing them?

The Engineering Complex:

Terran starships of all kinds, from loderunners to imperial warships, use a faster than light drive system colloquially referred to as the ‘stardrive’ or a ‘warp drive’ or even a ‘hyperdrive’. Battlespringers are no exception. Stardrives are a variation of warp engine, and in common parlance, traveling faster than light-speed is referred to as ‘warp speed’, with degrees of measurement specified as ‘warp 1’, ‘warp 2’ etc. At warp speed, the stars outside the ship are invisible due to it traveling faster than the speed of light, and so from inside the ship, through viewports and on the main view screen, space looks dark.

Stardrives, since they are a sort of thruster, are conventionally positioned at the back end of most ships, but in some cases, they’re encased in pods at the end of pylons to the side of the ship. Battlespringers have a standardized Engineering Complex (designed along the same principle as the the standardized bridge complex mentioned earlier), and their warp engines are located on the outboard ends of pylons leading out from the center of the ship, port and starboard. There is also a more conventional sub-light engine positioned at the back (or stern) of the ship. 

This class of starship uses a replication device based on transmatter technology similar to the one used in the Torpedo Production Plant (TPP) to manufacture matter/anti-matter fuel on demand, as the engines run. This eliminates the need to carry vast amounts of unstable and dangerous anti-matter in a special storage cell, making interstellar travel much safer. 

This in effect means that a starship can travel for as long as there’s fuel, or to be more exact, until something prevents it from making more fuel, like for example, a breakdown.

Like the Bridge Complex, starships of the Terran Space Fleet also come with an Engineering Complex, which consists of the Engine Room (naturally), an office and control station, an ablution facility, a first aid station, various types of workshop facility, as well as the Chief Entech’s cabin- which is really more generously appointed than it sounds.

To ensure that the Chief Entech is situated close to their main duty station, they have the use of a modest apartment right beside the engine room, which is accessible through an office and control station where all engine functions are monitored. The aim of that is to ensure the proximity of key engineering personnel as much as possible, so that even when off-shift, the Chief is handy to address emergencies.

The engine room itself is probably one of the largest chambers on a starship, typically around fifty meters long, oval-shaped, three decks high inside. The core – often referred to as the Reflex Furnace – that powers the stardrive, is situated at the center of it. That item alone dominates the engine room, reaching from top to bottom, and connected to the engine banks by means of conduits. Catwalks and covered ladders allow access to various parts of the machinery which are laid out at different levels of the engine room.

Further reading:

In Closing

That about covers it! I hope I’ve explained everything in a way that’s easily understood! I really enjoyed translating my original hand-drawn sketches into digital blueprint diagrams for this article, 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! 🙂


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