Monday, June 27, 2016

Abandon Ship!

Abandon ship? Yes sometimes.

Most times it is simply uneconomical to carry lifeboats. A lifeboat is designed as a long endurance craft with propulsion that can get you to safety. In the case of spacecraft that means something almost as costly and complex as your mother ship. Merchants can't afford that and usually neither can most militaries. I'd like to tip Traveller traders/smugglers and explorers to an easy way to minimize risk: convoys. Travel with a group of ships. One trader's dinky weapons will not trouble your average pirate or raider. Twelve traders' rinky dink weapons will. For that matter a collection of traders might have enough money to hire a mercenary ship to fly along and be further deterrent. If something does go wrong it's way quicker to transfer ships than reach a safe haven.

I have yet to see a merchant convoy in any SF game I ever ran despite my bias towards space piracy.

Suppose though there is a reason to abandon ship? A slow radiation leak, decaying orbit or crazy computer? Some sort of cheap one shot capsule to deliver one or two people from orbit to the ground of an Earth-like planet would probably do a lot for passengers' peace of mind. Many settings allow men in space suits to survive drops from orbit with foamed shields, parachutes and good intentions. A capsule would allow an unskilled person to that. A space savvy culture should be able to do that and keep it cheap so people can afford it. A capsule costing cr. 100,000 will pay for itself if it attracts 10-12 passengers (about 25 passengers with financing) over 40 years it's paid for itself. Not to mention crew can use it in a pinch.

The capsule would use thrusters and systems similar to missiles (in Special Supplement 3: Missiles). A standard missile is .02 cubic meters and masses 50 kilograms. A life capsule taking up one displacement ton would mass 2500 kg. If we stick a rocket thruster on it capable of 1g discretionary burns on the back that's 25 times the size of a missile's engine massing 25 * 11 = 275 kg. If we allow it ten 1g burns the fuel masses .4 * 25 = 10 kg * 10 = 100 kg. At 375 kg for an engine system I don't think I'm out of line allowing two couches, controls and say 100 kilos of gear. It costs about 50-60 Kcr.

Life Capsule: 1 displacement ton. Crew: 1 (acceleration couch). Move 1g10.  Cost: 150,000 cr. Crew/passengers are advised to wear vacc suits. Pilot is not needed. A hardwired autopilot system will automatically land the pod on the nearest world. The life pod can hold 100 kgs of survival gear.

Command Life Capsule: 2 displacement tons. Crew: 1 (acceleration couch). Move 1g7.  Cost: 150,000 cr. Crew/passengers are advised to wear vacc suits. A control station is included in addition to the standard autopilot. The pod has extensive transmitting and receiving systems. It is designed to take command of a group of surviving pods and can override other pod autopilots to stage a landing in the same general area or keep formation. The life pod can hold 200 kgs of survival gear.

Deluxe Life Capsule: 2 displacement tons. Crew 1 (low berth). Move 1g7 Cost 200,000 cr. Crew/passengers are advised to wear vacc suits. The evacuee has the option of engaging the low berth function at any time before or after landing if pickup is unlikely in the near future. Pilot is not needed. A hardwired autopilot system will automatically land the pod on the nearest world. The life pod can hold 100 kgs of survival gear.