Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Runs Your Ship?

Now that you have the propulsion decided on, as well as the electrical power and a backup system decided on, it’s time to look at another power needed: that of g-force or gravity. The Wikipedia site on artificial gravity goes into more detail but there are a number of proposed ways to make artificial gravity on a space ship. There is rotation, (where a part of the ship rotates to create friction strong enough to form gravity from movement) constant acceleration, (where the gravity comes from the object wanting to go one way and the ship’s movement in space pulls it the other way) mass, (where a huge object would pull everything on the ship near it) tidal forces, (where two ships or masses near each other create some pull on each other felt as gravity) magnetism, (which would require a massive magnet to create gravity to a ship) or some sort of technology that we haven’t thought of yet. However, each system has its problems. Using rotation means adding an extra propellant to move the main part of the ship, extra strength is needed in the structure of the ship to keep it from splitting into pieces, some sort of counterweight is needed, and compensation to avoid destruction by friction and opposing actions from the spinning area. Constant acceleration in itself is a problem due to the energy usage of constantly speeding up and eventually the ship will have to slow down and stop. The use of such a huge object (to create enough gravity to be useful) would add enormous stress to the ship lifting off and building around such a massive object would be annoying. Tidal forces would be hard to maintain on a space ship but may work in a space station situated above a planet or moon. Magnetism of the needed amount would likely interfere with any version of radar or deep-space communication the ship would have as well as screwing with the shipboard systems. (Have you ever put a powerful magnet near a computer card? It’s the easiest way to scramble a hard drive.) It’s up to you to decide which system your species uses because living in zero gravity for long periods of time is not healthy. Bone mass deteriorates and movement becomes harder as injury becomes easier to do.

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