Faster Than Light Travel: The Framing Device

From The Encyclopedia Pan-Alpha:

The Framing Device, or "Insanity Crystal" as it is sometimes called is the only known device that allows travel at greater than the speed of light.  While it is true that no object bearing mass can travel at greater than the speed of light, as defined by Albert Einstein, physicist Lachi Bhuta suggested in 2184 that a massed object could pass through naturally occurring folds in the fabric of space time, effectively moving from one point in space to another without passing though the points in between.  Peer review and test data showed that space/time is in fact full of folds that appear and disappear much like ripples in water, and that Bhuta's calculations were correct.  It was more than 30 years later, and 10 years after Bhuta's death that issues with the unstable nature of the folds and with the technology needed to calculate precise entry were finally over come.  The first functional framing drive was activated by Er Qin (Now Lin. Corp.) in 2215.  

Today all interstellar travel is dependent on the quirky, sometimes unpredictable Framing Drive.


The Framing Drive is a carbon nano-tube and diamond device that, for a few fractions of a second, lines up exactly with a naturally occurring fold in space time.  Since these folds appear and disappear every few microseconds, the ship board computer calculates the direction it want to go and then waits, usually less than a 10th of second for a fold going the direction the ship wants to go.  

Since the folds are unstable and naturally curved, a ship must come out of the fold every few light minutes, adjust its course and wait for a new fold.   Since the ship is not moving in conventional space, the only indication of movement that a passenger can see is Kirlov's radiation a faint glow around the ship generated when the ship's pressure shields displace objects at the destination point.

The Framing Drive is relatively low energy, needing only its computer, main drive and a series of wave guides located at a distance of 88.4 times the diameter of the crystal.   Most ships use a conventional nuclear power plant to drive the device.  Power demands are different for differing designs but most ships require between 2 and 3 gigawatts.


Since a ship using the device is not moving though conventional space, but instead moving around it; speed is generally expressed in number of hours to travel a light year.   While the jump itself does not take time, the time to calculate a new trajectory and find a fold to cross generally takes 4 our 5 seconds.  Modern ships are generally able to take jumps of about 8 light seconds before having to recalculate.  This gives current technology a maxim speed of aroound one light year per 100 hours of travel.  "The Philli" of Far Mark has the demonstrated ability to make 15 second jump but instability in the folds makes it virtually unable to predict where the ship will return to conventional space.  "The Moth" of the IFD reportedly uses a previously undescribed alien species to calculate jumps, giving them a 2 to 3 second inter-jump gap or a speed of about one light year per 70 hours.  This cannot be confirmed.


Stellar navigation is accomplished by matching known stars in the computer's memory with observations made during travel.

Since the folds are not straight the travel of a ship towards a point forms a jagged line.  The craft lines up the direction it wants to go, jumps into the first fold passing that direction.  Natural instability in the fold moves the craft away from its intended direction.  The ship re-emerges, determines a new heading and waits for a new fold.  Note, the longer the jump, the greater the variation from the intended course.  In theory, if a ship traveled far enough down fold, it would arrive at a point well to the port or starboard of its starting point as if it had traveled in a closing spiral.

As a ship approaches its destination, it uses smaller and smaller jumps to refine its location.  They rely on ion engines for distances of less than one or two light seconds.

Genrally, a ship cannot jump to within a light second of an object more massive than that a large asteroid.  The "frame dragging" effect, that is, the tendency of massive objects to twist space around them, disrupts the folds.  A ship that attempts to travel to near a massive object will tend to fall out into conventional space as the folds twist naturally around the object.  The diameter of this "flat spot" varies with the mass of the object.  A terrestrial planet may have a flat spot of only one or two seconds while an M clas star's flat spot can be as much at 10 or 15 light seconds.  Super massive objects like black holes may flatten space for several light minutes.

It is also possible to make a flat spot by using a device called a "rippler."  A rippler is essentially a small small insanity crystal with no computer guidance.  When activated, it grabs randomly at the ripples around it, twisting and distorting them.  This makes it impossible for another ship to frame into the flat spot generated by the rippler.  Most ripplers are only effective to a distance of one or two light seconds but there are some larger ones in use that make flat spots of up to 10 or 12 light seconds.

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