Deep Beyond

From Sphere
Jump to: navigation, search

Future History

2020-2050: The New Frontier

In 2020, the United States and China were well on their way to returning to the moon in a quiet race. In both cases they were using technologies little different from those that had brought the Apollo astronauts to the Moon fifty years previously. However in the high atmosphere of Earth were an ever-increasing number of commercial launch vehicles based on innovative designs and new technologies. They remained barely capable of reaching the International Space Station, but they still pointed a way forward. Other advances were doing their own part in opening up the 'Final Frontier', ever so slowly.

Even as the first manned ships were landing on the Moon for the first time in half a century, agencies and companies across the globe were making paradigm shifts in launch vehicles. Materials science, technical advancement and precision manufacturing were rapidly ushering in the age of truly reusable surface-to-orbit transport. By 2030 crude molecular manufacturing enabled the construction of skyhooks, rapidly reducing the costs to reach orbit, and by 2035 both commercial and prestige projects on the Moon, in near-Earth asteroids and even on Mars had begun. The two biggest of these were the Martian colonies, colloquially known as Red America and Rust China. Like the era of European colonization centuries before, both nations jockeyed for primacy out of national pride. Alongside the immense sums of money spent to set up colonies on the Red Planet between 2035 and 2050, private groups and even individuals came as well, setting up simple dwellings in the Martian landscape, a new breed of techno-pioneers.

The US and China were not the only big national players at this time; Russia had token Mars colony, primarily for scientific purposes, but they focussed their efforts on the Moon. Transit times were orders of magnitude lower and for the Russians who lacked the lavish budget of China or America, it was simply cheaper. The European Union ignored large bodies entirely, with its flagship colony at 3753 Cruithne, a near-Earth asteroid. The ample resources at Cruithne allowed the EU to rapidly construct an O'Neil Cylinder, the first of its kind.

As access to space became ever easier, hardy groups inspired by the EU set their sights on the asteroids and between 2045 and 2055 dozens of private or lesser national ventures sprouted on near-Earth asteroids. Notable among these was the Indian colony on 1866 Sisyphus, Virgin Intergalactic's habitat inside the Mercury-crossing asteroid 3200 Phaethon and the Interstellar Society's habitat in 3554 Amun.

2051-2062: Prelude to Chaos

As the symbolic milestone of 2050 passed, Earth's flagging ecosystem and ever more limited resources began to provide a stark contrast to the optimism outside of Earth's gravity well. A new militarism began to prevail on Earth even as technologies like orbital launch lasers made travel to Mars or other colony sites increasingly easy. Continued global warming and decreased soil productivity had raised food issues for Earth's ten billion and orbital resources were trickling in at a rate wholly insufficient to support the demands of nations from America to China to India to Brazil. The internalization of production due to transport prices and effective universal fabrication technology frayed many of the trade links that kept the world together, allowing regionalism and ideologies to trump mutualism. It also did not escape military notice that the orbital launch lasers could prove to be incredibly effective weapons. It would merely take one 'misaimed' beam to inflict catastrophic damage on a city.

Then, in late 2062, harsh words turned to violence, as a local dispute spiralled out of control.

2062-2076: The Cold Snap

With shocking speed, the world erupted into a spasm of nuclear violence, with missiles falling on cities, instantly turning them into infernos. Even the reduced arsenals of 2062 and various anti-missile systems could not stop them all, and the immediate death toll was in the tens of millions. Over a hundred megatons of irradiated smoke was launched into the stratosphere, blanketing the world in nuclear winter. Crops failed all across the world and the resulting death toll became truly staggering.

The survivors - and there were many - were out for vengeance against any they saw as responsible, and for the next decade war raged across the globe even as agriculture failed and the bodies continued to pile up. The initial waves of modern equipment were attrited or simply worn out and with production sites continued targets for low-yield tactical nuclear weapons, battlefield technology was continually ground down, getting simpler and simpler by the year. This could not last forever of course, and by 2076 the insanity and vengeance had finally given way to a numb acceptance and slowly the patchwork of overlapping conflicts ceased.

Parallel to this was the use of advanced autonomous weapons by several major powers; most notably America, China and Japan. These had been kept out of public sight out of lingering concerns, but the nuclear exchange in 2062 put paid to all that and they were soon released 'into the wild'. These self-replicating, self-evolving weapons were the pinnacle of military technology and while flawed and buggy, still took horrific tolls on whoever their enemy was, both combatant and non-combatant. Throughout the remainder of 2062 and until at least 2065, low-yield nuclear weapons were sporadically used against them as they became increasingly deadly and dug in.

2077-2097: Reconstruction

New grudges remained, but the weary survivors of Earth spent the next two decades putting their shattered world back into some semblance of civilization. The technologies of 2057 were gone, either destroyed, lost in the chaos or simply worn out. What had survived was simple and robust, more in common with the 20th century than the 21st. New borders were drawn as well, as entire nations had amalgamated, conquered or ceased to exist.

This period also saw the return of regular contact with the colonies. Having survived generally untouched, the destruction of military satellites in Earth orbit had resulted in a cascade of destruction that for decades had surrounded the Earth in a vast cloud of shattered satellites. This hazard slowly ebbed as they rained out, burning up in atmosphere. The colonies had prospered - almost - in the intervening years, watching in stunned horror as Earth convulsed in violence. By dint of concentrating their energies and hard pragmatism, they'd managed to struggle through. Where Earth had suffered immense losses, the colonies on the Moon, on Mars, on Cruithne and even on minor bodies had expanded, raising entirely new generations and keeping and even improving on the technologies they possessed. Again, however, a robust and pragmatic approach had been taken; life on the frontier was not kind to those who added unnecessary frills.

2098: The Final Frontier

On August 16th, 2097, Red America deployed an unmanned spacecraft from its Deimos base. After towing it to a safe distance, the craft, a jumble of electronics and power-control systems vanished in a flash of light, reappearing in less than a second more than a million kilometres away. Einstein had been circumvented.

After the initial shock and buzz had worn off, the various solar nations took stock of what had happened. The Earthside nations were shaken by this violation of physics as they knew it and desperately sought any information they could get. Their intelligence-gathering efforts turned up the basics of this new propulsion system was based on mid-century physics theories that had been refined in the intervening decades by the various scientific establishments outside Earth's gravity well. For their part, the orbital polities had been well aware of the technological implications and had been engaged in a quiet race to build the first jumpcraft; by the end of 2097 all the major orbital polities had either tested a jumpdrive platform or had ready to fly.

The Shape of Things

Earth

Still a blue-white marble from afar, the Earth is a battered wreck in 2098. A decade of nuclear winter and the use of both biological and chemical weapons had ruined its biosphere and hardened its people. Untold numbers of species now exist solely as genetic samples in ‘lifeboat’ repositories on the moon or elsewhere. Worse yet, colonies of ‘War Machines’ continue to bedevil regions such as Borneo, western Siberia and pockets all across Africa, making them veritable no-go areas.

No definitive figures exist for just how many people died during the Cold Snap, but all estimates place the death toll over the period of 2062 to 2076 between 80 and 90% of Earth’s entire population, from causes ranging from the initial nuclear exchange to starvation in the ensuing years to combat. The survivors were toughened – some would say traumatized – by this and as a consequence Earthers tend to be blunt and cliquish, with little time for any who can’t pull their weight. A certain nihilism also prevails, and issues like the environment are, unsurprisingly, considered more or less obsolete.

The various important nations are reflections of this; created whole-cloth during the war or irreparably changed by the privations and megadeaths, they are almost universally paranoid and suspicious, strongly militaristic and with an authoritarian bent to even the most open political system.

The devastation visited upon Earth also wiped away many of the advanced technologies of the era. Generally relying on efficient but centralized infrastructure and publically-known research institutes, they were easy targets for cruise missiles, often nuclear-tipped. Factories were dispersed, eschewing electronics – much of which had been ruined by EMP bursts anyhow – for rugged mechanical designs. Even in 2098 the Earthers have been slow to repair the damage and remain at the stage of needing to build the tools to build the tools to rebuild advanced technology.

Stereotypically, Earther governments are seen by the orbital polities as juntas or dictatorships and perpetuators of the militarism that nearly wiped out Humanity.

Earth Orbit

Before the war, Earth orbit was a bustling place, with many stations serving needs ranging from habitation to industry to fuelling and transhipment. The bulk of them were placed in the upper half of the Low Earth Orbit band, outside of the exosphere where they would need minimal (if any) reboosting and generally protected from the worst of the Van Allen belts. A number of small asteroids and extinct comets, all in the 100-300m range had been deflected from their Earth-crossing orbits and put into medium or high Earth orbits to provide on-site resource extraction for Earth’s orbital industry. More ambitious plans to move larger, multi-km asteroids had been floated in the ‘50s, but these never got beyond the planning state.

The war changed everything. The use of anti-satellite weapons and even high-yield thermonuclear weapons in orbit swiftly turned the busy orbits into charnel houses. An unknown number of satellites ‘died’ from the artificial radiation belts and the subsequent Kessler Syndrome of destroyed military satellites shattering into dangerous high-velocity fragments indiscriminately spread the destruction. The mad rush to escape saw the bulk of the orbital population escape outwards, forming a wave of refugees that strained various near-Earth stations.

Today, while some of the lower zones have begun to clear and a few efforts have been made to clear paths for transatmospheric flights, Earth’s orbits remain a dangerous – if manageable – place to be. There is wealth to be found there however, as there remained vast amounts of salvageable electronics, nanotechnology or volatiles. Salvage prospectors could make respectable livings recovering this. The return of various Earthside nations to space forced stiff competition, though a few independent prospectors still hunt among the orbital ruins for something to sell.

In addition to Cruithne, several free-space colonies remained inhabited at the Earth-Moon L5 point throughout the years, many of these having undergone drastic increases in population as the destination for the low-orbit refugees. Originally crowded past their designed capacity and being the closest thing that orbit had to slums, the construction of new habitats has eased crowding somewhat. Recently, there has been talk of returning to the unfinished Island 3 at L4, which was abandoned in the immediate aftermath of the war as its workers fled towards more hospitable stations. Rumours also have it that some Earther nations are looking to claim the Island 3 for themselves, which could result in an orbital tug-of-war.

The Moon

The first celestial body visited by humans, the Moon was host to various permanently-inhabited scientific and private stations starting from the ‘20s. The largest (by far) of these was the Russian outpost of Gagaringrad in Peary crater, which by 2060 was a true city of over 180,000. Japan also had an outpost, in the southern polar crater Shackleton. While both of these were nationally-claimed and operated, they had thriving international and transient populations, sometimes reaching 10% of the permanent population.

The opening shots of the war changed Gagaringrad forever. With a ringside seat to the systematic destruction of their home country, an interim national government was rapidly instituted and declared neutrality, primarily to (hopefully) avoid any attacks by long-range ASAT weapons. By 2064 it had reconstituted itself as the Lunnaya Sovetskaya Respublika, the Lunar Soviet Republic – a clear reference to the glory days of the original Russian space program and a reflection of the nanofabricator-driven post-scarcity economy that had been evolving outside Earth’s orbit.

Orbital Economy

Resource Extraction

Resources

Volatiles
He3
Water
Oxygen
Carbon
Titanium
Light Metals
Heavy Metals
Rare Earths
Radioactives

This is the output per month of extraction and smelting.

Moon

1 He3, 10 Oxygen, 5 Titanium, 20 Light Metals, 3 Heavy Metals, 1 Rare Earths

Mars

5 Water, 12 Oxygen, 2 Carbon, 1 Titanium, 20 Light Metals, 15 Heavy Metals

Extinct comet

100 Volatiltes, 2 He3, 131 Water, 10 Carbon, 1 Titanium, 5 Light Metals, 1 Heavy Metals

C-Type asteroid

120 Volatiles, 50 Water, 5 Oxygen, 20 Carbon, 1 Titanium, 5 Light Metals

S-Type asteroid

15 Oxygen, 2 Carbon, 5 Titanium, 15 Light Metals, 2 Heavy Metals, 1 Rare Earths

M-Type asteroid

15 Heavy Metals, 4 Rare Earths, 1 Radioactives

Refining

Oxygen

Requirements: 115 Water
Output: 100 Oxygen

Rocket Fuel

Requirements: 75 Volatiles, 20 Water, 20 Oxygen, 10 Carbon,
Output: 100 Rocket Fuel

Fusion Premix

Requirements: 100 Water, 10 He3
Output: 100 Fusion Premix

Component Fabrication

Products

Rocket Fuel
Fusion Premix
Electronics
Hyperalloys
Field Modulators

Electronics

Requirements: 24 Volatiles, 15 Carbon, 10 Light Metals, 1 Rare Earths
Output: 10 Electronics

Hyperalloys

Requirements: 10 Carbon, 12 Titanium, 1 Heavy Metals, 2 Rare Earths
Output: 10 Hyperalloys

Field Modulators

Requirements: 6 Carbon, 6 Light Metals, 5 Heavy Metals, 8 Rare Earths
Output: 10 Field Modulators

Equipment List

Space Structures

Note that all of these can be assembled in orbit, they don't need to go up in one lift.

Orbital Habitat

Houses 500 colonists
Lift Weight: 2000
Cost (dollar): 1300
Cost (resource): 90 Volatiles, 1500 Light Metals, 400 Heavy Metals, 10 Electronics
Upkeep: 10 Volatiles, 50 Water, 50 Oxygen, 2 Power

surface Habitat

Houses 500 colonists
Lift Weight: 400
Cost (dollar): 400
Cost (resource): 90 Volatiles, 100 Light Metals, 200 Heavy Metals, 10 Electronics
Upkeep: 10 Volatiles, 50 Water, 50 Oxygen, 2 Power

Solar Plant

Outputs electrical power
Lift Weight: 25
Cost (dollar): 60
Cost (resource): 10 Volatiles, 10 Light Metals, 5 Electronics
Upkeep: None
Power Output: 6 (multiplied by Solar Flux Value)

Fusion Plant

Outputs electrical power
Lift Weight: 50
Cost (dollar): 650
Cost (resource): 10 Titanium, 10 Electronics, 10 Hyperalloys, 20 Field Modulators
Upkeep: 1 He3, 25 Manpower
Power Output: 100

Fusion Plant

Outputs electrical power
Lift Weight: 50
Cost (dollar): 650
Cost (resource): 10 Titanium, 10 Electronics, 10 Hyperalloys, 20 Field Modulators
Upkeep: 1 He3, 25 Manpower
Power Output: 100

Refinery

Converts
Lift Weight: 100
Cost (dollar): 200
Cost (resource): 50 Carbon, 20 Light Metals, 20 Heavy Metals, 10 Electronics
Upkeep: 5 Power, 25 Manpower

Smelter

Converts local ores into Resources
Lift Weight: 250
Cost (dollar): 600
Cost (resource): 50 Carbon, 50 Titanium, 120 Heavy Metals, 20 Rare Earths, 10 Electronics
Upkeep: 25 Power, 50 Manpower

Fabricator

Converts Resources into Products
Lift Weight: 250
Cost (dollar): 1200
Cost (resource): 50 Carbon, 50 Titanium, 50 Heavy Metals, 100 Electronics
Upkeep: 10 Power, 100 Manpower

Assembler

Constructs finished goods
Lift Weight: 1000
Cost (dollar): 6000
Cost (resource): 200 Carbon, 200 Titanium, 100 Heavy Metals, 500 Electronics
Upkeep: 25 Power, 250 Manpower, 5 Carbon

Supercollider

Generates exotic matter
Lift Weight: 1500
Cost (dollar): 15,000
Cost (resource): 200 Titanium, 200 Light Metals, 100 Heavy Metals, 100 Rare Earths, 200 Electronics, 200 Hyperalloys, 500 Field Modulators
Upkeep: 500 Power, 25 Manpower

Laboratory

Develops things
Lift Weight: 250
Cost (dollar): 1250
Cost (resource): 50 Carbon, 40 Titanium, 50 Metals, 10 Rare Earths, 100 Electronics
Upkeep: 5 Power, 200 Manpower

Hangar

Provides storage and maintenance for spacecraft
Lift Weight: 150
Cost (dollar): 275
Cost (resource): 20 Carbon, 50 Titanium, 50 Light Metals, 25 Heavy Metals, 5 Electronics
Upkeep: 1 Power, 25 Manpower

Spacecraft

Payload values are to Low Earth Orbit and External Orbit respectively.

Single-use rockets

Light Rocket

Payload: 1/0
Cost: 1
30% chance of failure

Medium Rocket

Payload: 25/10
Cost: 100

Heavy Rocket

Payload: 150/60
Cost: 600

Big Dumb Booster

Payload: 500/200
Cost: 1000

Multiple-use launch systems

Shuttles (SSTO)

Payload: 25/10
Fuel to Orbit: 20/35
Lift Weight: 325
Cost (dollar): 1400
Cost (resource): 100 Carbon, 100 Titanium, 20 Metals, 5 Electronics, 100 Hyperalloys

Transit Vehicles

Payload: 25
Fuel to Orbit: N/A
Lift Weight: 60
Cost (dollar): 300
Cost (resource): 25 Titanium, 10 Metals, 5 Electronics, 20 Hyperalloys

Interstellar Craft

Jumpships

Payload: 750
Transuranics per Jump: 10/1
Cost (If you could build it on the ground): 24,000
Cost (resource): 200 Carbon, 200 Titanium, 100 Metals, 50 Electronics, 200 Hyperalloys, 1000 Field Modulators