Technology in Blue Planet
This setting has a basic TL of 9, with some modifications. The "hard
science" options from UT2 are used, and biotechnology is more
advanced than other disciplines (effectively TL 10).
In practice, this means that there are no personal beam weapons
(except maybe for chemical lasers), vehicular beam weapons are
possible but only perform as standard TL 8 items, there are no
reactionless drives and no hint of any kind of "gravitational"
technology, and there is no FTL (except for the Wormhole, which
is a background feature and does not owe its existence to human
technology anyway). Also, there is no braintaping and no force-
growing of clones, and energy banks are less advanced than the
miraculous "standard" power cells of GURPS Ultratech (see below).
However, all other TL 9 stuff is available, and TL 10 biotech stuff
Most of the power consumed by human civilization toward the end of the
22nd century is derived from fusion power -- either in the form of
solar energy, or from large fusion power plants (which are normal
GURPS TL 9 plants, and therefore too bulky and heavy for most mobile
applications, although some large ships carry their own fusion
plants). Fission reactors as well as RTGs are sometimes used on
vehicles which require very long operational endurance; most vehicles
are, however, powered by liquid hydrogen (which is produced by
cracking water at stationary refineries) either burned in MHD turbines
or used to power hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells. Fossil fuels are still
used in some vehicular applications (mostly military jet aircraft)
despite environmental concerns and questionable economy. And, of
course, a few vehicles and many smaller gadgets are battery-powered.
The best batteries available are based on room-temperature
superconductors, so they can be recharged many times and they
are capable of discharging fast enough to power weapons. Their
nominal energy density is 1.6 kWh per lb, or in other words
0.00017 lbs per kJ. Each lb costs $50 and takes up 0.01 cf.
The weapons used are mostly still based on depositing kinetic energy
into the target via small and fast projectiles, and chemically
propelled slugthrowers are still most common both for personal and
vehicular use; the most popular types are advanced variations on the
liquid-propellant theme including electrothermal and scramjet guns.
Electromagnetic guns have a niche in the market, being considerably
more compact and requiring much less ammunition (in terms
of bulk and mass) than chemical-propellant weapons; however, their
high cost and thirst for power have kept them from dominating the
market. Missiles and torpedoes of various sizes and types are also
popular, and a lot of emphasis has been placed on developing "smart"
weapons -- all but the very smallest of missiles and torpedoes are
fitted with some kind of guidance system.
People still want to get around. Quite a lot of different methods
On Poseidon, the most common ground vehicle is undoubtedly the
electric scooter, used for getting around in Haven and the other
urban areas. However, a number of larger ground vehicles are also
in use, particularly all-terrain trucks on the larger islands and
various forms of construction and farming machinery on wheels or
Poseidon being a "waterworld", water vehicles are obviously very
important. These range from "primitive" native-built sail boats
(which may be effectively TL 5 as far as materials are concerned,
but reflect rather advanced construction techniques) and small
pleasure craft to large nuclear-powered freighters and submarines.
It is often important to cover large distance in a hurry on a
thinly-settled world like Poseidon, and nothing beats air
travel for that (except possibly for suborbital rockets).
Most aircraft are lifting-body designs, sacrificing maneuvrability
and stall speed in the interest of keeping costs down; many of
these are hybrid VTOL "jumpcraft", able to hover in midair and
land or take off vertically, but relying on aerodynamic lift to stay
aloft for most of their flight time, using the engines at low power
only for propulsion (to save fuel).
There could be no interplanetary civilization without space vehicles.
A variety of spacecraft types exist; most are either short-range
aerospace craft built to transport people and goods between a planet's
surface and orbit, or purely spacegoing transports unable to land.
The predominant propulsion technology is the "microfusion pulse
drive", where small fusion bomblets are serially detonated within the
combustion chamber to produce a more or less smooth thrust. These
rockets achieve an Isp of about 10,000 and use a reasonably compact
and solid fuel. Antimatter-thermal rockets also exist, but are mainly
limited to military use; when using hydrogen for reaction mass, an Isp
of about 22 thousand is attained, but this is "mitigated" by the
dangers of storing and using antimatter as well as by the increased
bulk and other storage requirements of the reaction mass
(liquid hydrogen is about thirteen times as bulky as the equivalent
mass in microfusion pellets, and it requires cryogenic tanks as well).
The standard TL 9 fusion rockets are banned because they imply
a much higher ratio of power to mass than what fusion
reactors have; "optimized" fusion rockets are possible but
not used except for a few unmanned deep-space probes.
A bit of playing around has been done with solar sails and magsails,
but nothing economically viable has yet been achieved; ordinary
spacecraft are easily able to travel from Earth to Jupiter in a few
months' time with present-day technology, and no further radical
improvements in the speed of interplanetary travel are expected --
only the cost per unit mass is expected to decrease.
For the past half-century or so, massive radiation
shields (prolonged deep-space flight would require at least 70 lbs per
square foot of inhabited hull) have mostly been made redundant by
enveloping manned ships in magnetic fields that deflect
charged-particle radiation away from the vulnerable passengers.
Incidentally, most interplanetary passengers have been shipped as
freight, in hibernation, ever since Poseidon was discovered.
Last modified: Wed Feb 18 06:10:33 MET 1998