Vortex Drive is the means of faster-than-light propulsion for many different species with many different vessels. All of these drives are constructed with the same concept, throwing a ship in to "Vortex Space" where by manipulating the energy patterns of "Vortex Space" it is possible to bring two points in the real space/time continuum much closer together. Vortex drive exists on a plane parallel to the space/time continuum, but is not affected by the same laws.
Although the concept of Vortex Drive is the same, the methods of achieving this faster than light propulsion differ. The method of pushing the vessel in to Vortex drive changes with each species, as most species developed their faster than light transport individually, so created different methods for achieving and manipulating Vortex Space.
Vortex space is a dangerous place. Ships can only maintain a trip through Vortex Space of twenty-four hours before they must return to Real Space for a recharge period. The science behind this need is very complicated, but it is really a combination of two factors. 1) Vortex Drives require so much energy and power to manipulate Vortex Space that they must be powered down every 24 hours. 2) When entering Vortex Space, ships produce a "bubble of reality" around themselves.
This bubble maintains the ship's existence throughout the journey, as normal space physics would require that the ship be forced back in to Real Space. There are technologies as a part of the Vortex Drive that ensure the vessels can remain in Vortex Space without being thrown back in to Real Space (an act which in itself causes catastrophic damage.)
The combination of these two factors means that advancement in the field of Vortex Drive has been a difficult thing. Whilst engineers may be able to increase the sizes and powers of the Vortex Drives, they must also upgrade the technology that sustains a ship's flight through Vortex space. This means that Vortex Drive enhancements are a concerted effort on two fronts. This has made advancement of the technology difficult.
It is impossible to activate Vortex Drive whilst caught in the gravitational pull of a planet. Depending on the size of a planet, a ship must be a certain distance away before it can safely engage Vortex Drive. Any attempts to do so within the gravitational force of the planet will tear the ship apart due to the intense gravitational distortions that this causes in the Vortex Drive.
Additionally, the use of energy weapons in vortex space has never succeeded because energy weapons create unmanageable distortions in the vortex bubble risking the safety of the ship. The use of missiles and torpedoes is likewise impossible as these devices are too small to equip a vortex drive using available 26th Century technology.
Vortex Space Phenomena
Vortex Storms: Dangerous energy fluctuations in Vortex Space that are easily detectable in Real Space, Vortex Storms are randomly occurring phenomena inside Vortex Space that make Vortex Drive travel impossible until the storm has dissipated. It is unknown as to how and why these storms form, however some theories point to a build-up of energy in Vortex Space, that needs to be periodically purged through discharge in to Real Space to maintain a "balance of nature."
Dangers of Vortex and Interstellar Licensing Programmes
In the early history of the Vortex Drive, there were many horrific disasters. Manned test ships that disappeared never to be seen again. Ships that entered Vortex Space only to be thrown back in to Real Space a few seconds later and torn apart. Whilst this faster than light travel has meant that space exploration is possible, it is not without risk. The Vortex Drive must be carefully maintained. Without careful maintenance it can be very dangerous to use it.
Because of the dangers posed by Vortex Drives without careful regulation, all ships are required to undergo specific, regular tests. This had to led to a licensing program amongst almost every major power in the galaxy. Without a licence recognised and approved by that government, a ship will not be permitted to enter the system. Vortex Drive explosions are extremely dangerous events. Since it is recognised that the safety of Vortex Drives is in everyone's best interests, Terran mission control will recognise Gohorn licences and vice-versa, regardless of the political situation between the two powers. If a ship does not have the necessary checks performed on its Vortex Drive, its licence is nullified. These licensing laws have led to an illegal trade in Vortex Drives amongst unscrupulous characters who wish not to find themselves on any government list, and have also created a thriving forgery industry for those same unscrupulous individuals.
Detection whilst in Vortex Space
Whilst in Vortex Space, a vessel will not appear on normal sensors. The moment the Titan class Battle Cruiser UNSS Apollo enters Vortex Space it is not visible on sensors. In essence, the ship "disappears." Similarly, whilst in Vortex Space a ship is not able to make use of its regular sensors, so the UNSS Apollo is flying blind to its destination. In order to increase safety (incidents of starship collisions in vortex were recorded by all vortex-faring species throughout history), the Organisation for Interstellar Peace organised a R&D team charged with creating a sensor capable of seeing a vessel inside vortex. The R&D proved successful and since the mid 2400s, most starships have been equipped with a parallel vortex sensor suite capable of scanning a vessel in Vortex. Recently, certain military vessels have been equipped with devices that prevent the proper functioning of these sensors - vortex stealth. The technology remains incredibly expensive and is a massive power drain on the vessel so that it can only remain in Vortex up to three hours.
Vortex Drives allow ships to effectively pass the barrier presented by the speed of light, without travelling at actual speeds above the barrier. As a parallel layer of space in which the laws of the normal Universe's physics are different, the speed of light constant does not apply.
Vortex Space accelerates all ships. Furthermore, the Drive manipulates the energies of Vortex Space to distort the effective distance between two points, making it significantly smaller, adding to the reduction in time it takes for ships in Vortex to travel from one point to another.
The acceleration added by entering Vortex is a constant true for all classes of ship. The vortex constant relative to sub-light is 745.945.000 km/sec. Without the vortex boost, the fastest warship of the Rosebourg Monarchy would travel in normal space 65.000 km/sec.
Travelling at its own sub-light speed, entering Vortex space retains the speed relationships between classes of ships, as some ships are able to add greater speeds on top of the constant than others. Therefore, ships which are faster at sub-light are the same ships which are faster at Vortex speeds.
21st century analogy: Two people step onto an airport travellator (representing Vortex Space). They are each given the same amount of additional speed by the travellator, however if one person moves faster than the other on the travellator, he is still the faster of the two.
Vortex Drive and Power Requirements
Vortex enabled power cores can only work on their own. The problem of increasing power output by adding a second core has not yet been solved, as it is not possible for them to work in tandem. Therefore it is the smaller ships which can travel faster, because their excess power requirements for life-support, weapons, lights etc. are a lot smaller.
In Vortex Space, there are two types of particle.
Type A Particle - Vraltium Particles
Type B Particle - Zaticus Particles
Everything about Vortex Space is about balance. It is the balance of energy that is formed by both Vraltium and Zaticus that maintain the "calmness" of Vortex Space, and the imbalance which leads to Vortex Storms.
Likewise, the balance and imbalance of Vraltium and Zaticus effect ships in Vortex Space. Whilst in balance, the Vortex Drives function properly and the ship is able to maintain its presence in Vortex Space, but when the particles are imbalanced, the area of Vortex Space in which the imbalance is found becomes unstable and thus all ships are returned to Real Space.
Dual Vortex Drives
The new dual Vortex Drive system invented by the Rosebourg Monarchy does not increase speed through more power. What it does is increase the efficiency of power usage for the Vortex Drive, allowing for more effective power distribution and therefore more speed. Even the Monarchy, with its considerable contribution to Vortex R&D have not solved the Dual Power Core problem which prevents battleships from reaching high speeds.
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