Conglomerate Science Fiction Game
Mass Conveyor System
Mass Conveyor System Routes in the Jericho Sector
Dashed red lines indicate routes for the interstellar Mass Conveyor System within the Jericho Sector. Other Mass Conveyor System routes leading outside of the Jericho Sector are not shown.
A Mass Conveyor System Gate
Mass Conveyor System
A consortium of corporations maintains a low-cost interstellar distribution network based on gate technology. Gates with an aperture diameter of about six meters usually reside in geosynchronous orbit above a planet within the system or at an L-point between bodies in a system. They are designed to accept standard stasis box cargo containers. These can enter the gate by being inserted using a particular type of tug vessel, or can be fired from the surface of planet with gravitic transport guns. Due to the incredible sonic booms created by the transport gun method, this is usually only an option on airless planets. Cargo can travel in both directions, but each gate can have only a single destination.
Gate pairs form a network that spans known space. Some planets are known as “hubs” where a cargo container can emerge and re-enter another gate bound for a further destination. Cargo can bounce from hub to hub in stasis and be cheaply transported to any gate terminus within the mass conveyor network. It requires about 55 days to traverse any single gate pair, but perishable goods in stasis do not decay, so once a queue is established, regular shipments from anywhere to anywhere within the network are feasible. This long transit time makes it prohibitive for transporting life-forms (see also Using Mass Conveyor System for Citizen Transport topic below).
Because of the peculiar physics of gates, container queues can travel in both directions simultaneously without interfering with each other.
Many lesser-traveled planets are not in the Mass Conveyor System and can only be reached by Jump Ships.
Mass Conveyor System gates, like all gates, must be emplaced by transportation through real space by sublight pusher ships. Passing through another gate, or through jump, disrupts the connection between the gates. This makes the gates hideously expensive to emplace. The Mass Conveyor System uses six-meter gates that are pushed by pairs of a very special type of ship, only three sets of which exist. The UDF operates these ships, which can accelerate at roughly 1.5G and top out at roughly 0.8C. Because a mass travelling at such a high velocity would release frightening amounts of energy when impacted upon a planet’s surface, such ships could be used as terror weapons on a grand scale. This is why the UDF refuses to allow anyone else to operate them.
The size of the Mass Conveyor System gates is intended to allow a direct shot of a 10-ton shipping container (about 3×4×12m) held in a special shell that contains the transfer drive unit and some small maneuvering units. Gates are linked in pairs, and are oriented perpendicular to the relative velocity vector between the endpoint systems. Tugs align the loaded shells, and tractor systems on the gate perform the final insertion sequence. A gate can detect an emerging shell about a half-hour before it strikes, and tugs align to catch it and resynchronize the residual velocity to the local system velocity (typically a few km/s). Many companies own gates; no one company has a monopoly on them. Transtar does, however, own quite a few, as does Universal Foods. Both of these companies are in businesses that involve the transportation of large quantities of mass across known space.
Using Mass Conveyor System for Citizen Transport
Though gate technology has been used to transport sentient beings in the past, the Mass Conveyor System is rarely used for this purpose in modern times. This is because a small percentage of the transport vessels entering the gate at one end fail to re-emerge at the other end. For this reason, CEP transport regulations do not allow the transportation of sentient beings through the Mass Conveyor System except in case of extreme emergency.
This does not, of course, mean that it never happens. Indigent stowaways regularly hitch a ride in cargo containers bound for hopefully greener pastures in stasis. The quality of the stasis fields in these containers, however, are not usually intended as bio-grade, and such hitchhikers will often find themselves damaged or killed when the stasis field is turned off or even starving or asphyxiating due to the failure of a poorly maintained stasis field generator. This is a dangerous and ill-advised method of moving between star systems.