24 September 2013

Moving Parts

When describing the look and feel of the Traveller universe, the ships in particular, I fall back on what I know.

Planes and ships.

Aircraft do not have an engine room.  Modern aircraft don't even have an engineer anymore.  Damn computers anyway!

Ships have engine rooms and engineers.

The bridge of my Traveller ships tend to be more like a cockpit, and everyone accepts this because spaceships have an affinity to airplanes.

But what does the engineering space look like?

Not many of us have spent any time in a genuine ship's engine room.

What got me thinking HARD on the topic was Galaxy Quest and the chompers.  It was reinforced by the depiction in the newer Battlestar Galactica of the jump drive with huge piston things slamming back and forth.

I've spent a teeny amount of time in an engine room of a ship underway.

Nothing moves except the shaft.  Things vibrate, make noise, get hot but they don't move.  Moving parts are under covers where you can't see them.

Why?

Cynical people might say OSHA.  The real answer is up on the bridge.  There's an inclinometer there.  It's super simple, it's a ball in a curved glass tube; marked in degrees, that tells how far the ship is rolling.  On a simple WW2 freighter that thing is marked to 60˚!

What happens below decks in the engine room when the ship unexpectedly rolls even 20˚?  It's not like you can see the wave coming while you're down in the bowels of the ship.  You'll stumble around like a drunk is what you'll do and you'll be grabbing onto and bracing against everything you can.  Thus, everything that moves is covered!  It's embarrassing to catch yourself on something that's going to grab your hands and pull you into it to be mangled into a bloody pulp!

As for looks?

I see a maze of piping for running coolant and fuel around (Traveller uses liquid hydrogen for fuel so it can also be coolant).  I see conduits for some serious power transmission lines because the maneuver drive is reactionless and fed right from the power plant in GURPS terms.  I see an acceleration seat and a terminal for the engineer.  I see a giant tool box with a work bench and mill, because you're on your own in deep space for anything what breaks.

Other details.  The hydrogen lines are marked.  In the GURPS Traveller universe the only thing that needs the fuel is the jump drive.  The jump engine includes a cryogenic plant that circulates the fuel and keeps it cold.  So there's a set of lines that go from the cryo plant to and from the fuel bunkers.  Since the H2 is handy, there a set of lines that runs from the bunker to the jump drive to cool it and then from the drive to the cryo plant then back to the bunker.  Then there's the fuel feed itself which leads from the bunker to the drive where it's consumed and leaves the ship.  There are also transfer lines between bunkers, feed pumps, transfer pumps and valves everywhere.

The life support system has water tankage and lines for potable, non-potable and waste water.  With their associated valves and pumps.

There are tanks and bottles of all the various gasses and fluids used by the drives and life support system.

Everything is labelled and color coded.

The valves have a motor for remote operation and a wheel for manual use.

It is well lit.

There are railings and grab bars all over the place and it's one of the few spaces that's designed with the assumption that there will be no gravity and people must still move around.  There are also ladders which are useless when the ship is operating normally, but are essential to move forward under thrust without the grav compensation gear running (the bow is "up" under thrust).

Places where you'd hit your head are padded.

But nothing is flinging back and forth like a steam engine power arm!

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