Trope-a-Day: Space is Cold

Space is Cold: Averted.  You need matter to have a temperature, and guess what space doesn’t have?

You’ll freeze to death eventually, sure, thanks to the slow process of radiating your heat away – in the absence of any form of conduction or convection – into that giant sky heatsink that surrounds you – unless there’s a star nearby, in which case you’ll roast to death first.

But on the whole, you are much more concerned with how to get rid of excess heat in space than you are with how to hang on to the heat you have.  Starships carry a lot of machinery – radiative striping, liquid-droplet radiators, and in extreme cases, neutrino heat pumps – to get rid of heat, and a total failure of these systems will pretty much slowly bake you from the reactor and life support system’s heat budget.  (Naturally, they’re pretty redundant.)  This is also why you can’t have perfect stealth in space, and even very imperfect stealth – using heat sinks to capture most of this – runs out fairly quickly as those sinks run out of capacity.

Building the Imperial Navy: Force Management

Building-a-NavyAnd now here we are at the last (sixth) part of Building the Imperial Navy (one; two; three; four; five), Force Management. In which we discuss matters relating to keeping the fleet in top fighting form, to wit: Personnel Policies, Logistics Concept, Level of Readiness (Afloat and Ashore), and Acquisition Strategy.

Personnel Policies

A good chunk of this is actually something I touched upon last time in discussing manning strategy; namely, how much personnel turnover does the IN plan for? The answer, in this case, is not much: being an effective naval officer or an effective naval spacehand depends on extensive training and experience both, and the Imperial Navy has long since concluded that offering the generous remuneration, excellent working conditions (compared to the conditions some navies consider acceptable, the IN operates a bunch of floating five-star hotels), high-quality training, etc., etc., it does is worth every taltis in keeping retention up, and that saving money there at the cost of losing its highly cross-trained, highly experienced “lifers” as the solid core of its personnel roster would be the falsest of false economies.

The other main aspect is the “personnel tempo” (PERSTEMPO) of the force: i.e., how often are people deployed and away from their families, which has a high impact on personnel retention. PERSTEMPO isn’t quite so great as it might be: as mentioned in previous parts, the Imperial Navy prefers a forward-leaning strategy and likes to keep as much of the fleet out in the black, in motion, as it can reasonably manage, which implies an uncomfortably high PERSTEMPO.

Under peacetime and “standard wartime” circumstances, as per this post, the Imperial Navy ideally prefers a 2-for-1 rotation, where half the fleet (not counting reserves) is deployed at any given time, while the other half is in dock refitting, training, etc. The logical implication of that for spaceborne personnel is that they operate under a similar PERSTEMPO: three-to-six months deployed, three-to-six months on base, and repeat.

To ameliorate this as much as possible, while the IN is not willing to countenance downright crazy policies such as letting people take their civilian families aboard starships intended to get into firefights, it does subsidize all the costs and transportation and other inconvenience necessary to accommodate naval personnel’s families aboard the Supremacy-class mobile naval bases, at fleet stations, and so forth – places not significantly less safe than any ecumenical colony – in order to keep the time-apart down to just that implied by the PERSTEMPO, as well as providing free communications over fleet channels and being happy to arrange for couples who are both in the Navy to serve on the same starship, where operational requirements permit.

Logistics Concept

The Imperial Navy’s thinking on both this and the following section (Level of Readiness) are dominated by one simple thing: space is big, really quite inconveniently so, and when things go wrong, they can go wrong awfully fast.

(And while you may be able to tolerate the local member of the Interstellar League of Tribal Chiefdoms gobbling up a couple of dozen systems that you can take back from them later – assuming they’re not rampaging xenocidal bigots – the same does not apply if you’re facing a runaway perversion or a heggie swarm. The Second Lord of the Admiralty does not want to be in the position of explaining how he let an entire constellation get eaten while waiting around for the below-establishment personnel/reserve dreadnoughts/missile colliers to turn up.)

As such, in logistics, the rules are that all task forces shall be fully stocked upon deployment (typically, as mentioned, to support up to a year’s cruising), and all OPAREAs shall be within ready reach of resupply.) We touched on this last time, too, under Organic Support Functions & Shore Infrastructure, but to elaborate somewhat –

It’s certainly true that the main resupply stocks and manufacturing capabilities are located at Prime Base – as are those stocks of “special” weapons that require equally special care – but the IN forward-deploys lots of resupply, using the fleet train, to those fleet stations throughout each Field Fleet’s operational area, and in the case of the Supremacy-class mobile bases and long-established fleet stations, builds local manufacturing capabilities, too. (Some limited manufacturing capabilities are even deployed aboard starships: every starship has some kind of machine shop for making certain types of spare parts, for example, and large types that can afford the volume will carry fuel skimmers and capacity to fabricate k-slugs from asteroid materials, etc.)

(For the Home Fleet’s use, “fleet stations” are also established at several worlds within the metropolitan Empire as a backup in the unlikely event of an attack on Palaxias itself.)

Meanwhile, the Imperial Navy’s logistics doctrine is built around underway replenishment. While starships can and often do resupply at fleet stations, that’s not the purpose of the fleet stations. The fleet train is designed to take necessary supplies to forward-deployed starships as necessary rather than requiring them to return to base: the fleet stations exist to shorten the journey of the fleet train in so doing, letting them get supplies to the fleet from themselves forward-deployed nodal bases rather than having to haul them all the way out from the Core on demand – keeping the flexibility of UNREP without lengthening time-to-readiness.

Level of Readiness (Afloat and Ashore)

As with logistics concept, the Imperial Navy’s level of readiness is dominated by the notions of space being big and trouble setting in very quickly. Of course, much as most navies would like to maintain full wartime readiness, that’s also very expensive… but then, as we mentioned back in part one, the IN has a relatively comfortable fiscal environment, which is also what lets it maintain its oft-mentioned forward-leaning posture.

So, y’know, while it’s not exactly all keyed up and operating at Strategic Condition One all the time, the IN is very ready in logistic terms. A ship that isn’t fully stocked with all the necessities, live ammunition – well, insofar as inert k-slugs are “live” – included, or that doesn’t have the requisite crew establishment, does not go forth into the black. Training exercises, war games, and so forth, run more or less continuously to keep the fleet occupied while it’s leaning forward. Supply depots at the fleet stations are kept fully stocked, because if it turns out you need them, odds are that you won’t have time to stock them at that point.

In short, the IN believes very firmly in the notion that it’s the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns that get you, and behaves accordingly.

(Navies whose admirals appreciate the sense of this but whose political masters won’t spend the money and/or whose political masters’ economies can’t support spending the money grind their teeth in envy. But, y’know, if you don’t have a Navy that can fight as soon as you need it to, you don’t have a Navy at all. You have an ornament.)

Acquisition Strategy

In which we address the question of how the Navy purchases new starships, given that they’re significant capital investments with a lengthy design and construction cycle…

This, again, is a situation in which I can cite part one and said relatively comfortable fiscal environment – being basically post-material-scarcity with a huge industrial and autoindustrial base is great for acquisitions, and as I said there, most of its payout goes to things like personnel and outsourced services, not capital for capital ships, and so forth. The limiting factor, in this case, is not so much of a limiting factor especially since, as said back then, there’s a lot of upside in the budget.

The actual IN procurement cycle, for starships, is essentially continuous FIFO replacement (with slow expansion as the stargate plexus, and thus the space it needs to patrol, also expands), at a pace set to loosely keep up with the rate of relevant technical innovation that can’t be absorbed by refits. Unless there’s some specific necessity, the IN runs through its entire collection of types and classes replacing all its oldest vessels one after another with the latest model: although “replaced” in this case may well mean and probably does that the older ship is any of:

  • rebuilt into the latest model, if the basic spaceframe is still sound, in a process that’s sufficiently more thorough than a refit that the new model is basically a whole new class, maybe not even of the same type; or
  • mothballed at Palaxias or one of the Empire’s other internal fleet stations as part of the Reserve Fleet; or
  • sold into civilian service.

Rather than ending up at a wreckyard. This is a slow process, considering what refits can absorb by way of innovation – the IN has plenty of well-maintained centuries-old starships in service – but is maintained at a certain minimum level to ensure that there’s a core number of cageworks and yard dogs with experience in building IN-style ships that can serve as a cadre should the IN need to dip into its fiscal reserves for a sudden, unexpected fleet expansion.

…and now we’re done.

Trope-a-Day: Space Elevator

Space Elevator: A standard fixture on most moderately developed planets – while shuttles and lighters can make easy ground-orbit transfers in any direction, and ground-based mass drivers can shift arbitrary amounts of mass upwards and downwards quickly, once a world’s passenger and freight volumes increase to the point that it’s taking commuter traffic, passenger liners and grapeship megahaulers, you need something that can handle multiple continuous streams of traffic in both directions.  Hence, the space elevator.

(Heavily developed worlds often have more than one.  Seranth (Imperial Core), the busiest tradeworld in the Empire, has six, with a starport-heavy ring-city linking them at the geostationary end.)

Such elevators often become vertical cities, with residents living around and among the cables at various levels, and with an even larger city at their base; as the primary interface between planet and space, there are usually a lot of people wanting to live and do business right there.

Building the Imperial Navy: Force Size

Building-a-NavyIt’s part five of Building the Imperial Navy, it is. (Parts: one; two; three; four.)

In this part, Force Size, we talk about the people and infrastructure behind the fleet: manning strategy, organic support functions, and shore infrastructure.

So let’s begin:

Manning Strategy

In which we answer questions like these:

How many entities do you need for spacecraft crews? How do you get them? Are they drafted or are they volunteers? How qualified is the population base you are drawing upon? Are the spacecraft of the fleet fully crewed during peacetime or do you just keep a cadre and frantically recruit and train when war breaks out? Do you maintain a military reserve force, if so how and when can they be activated? What is the ratio of officers to enlisted people, and do you even break it down that way? Does the ratio change between peace and war? Do you use large amounts of robots and automation with few crew, or lots of crew for flexibility?

Well, to start with the obvious thing even though it’s last in the question list, the Imperial Navy uses lots and lots and lots of automation. That’s been the Imperial way of doing things since it was an urgent necessity of population demographics and when the automation consisted of clockwork automata powered by wind, water, and muscle, it stayed true when it had changed to mean steam-powered clanks with Stannic-cogitator brains, and it’s still true now that it means ecologies of ubiquitous processors, nanites, and optronic robots.

As such, Imperial naval vessels usually have significantly smaller crews than most of their counterparts in more… biochauvinist… polities. Or, to be slightly less smug about it, polities whose robotics is less sophisticated and as such less able to handle the complexities of crisis decision hierarchies and damage-control triage – although, in fairness, there is also a significant element of polities whose damage-control crews develop a stick up the cloaca at the prospect of their ship tellin’ em what to fix and in what order.

As for the personnel it does have, the Imperial Navy, as is the case for the rest of the Imperial Military Service, is an all-volunteer service. (It couldn’t be anything else even if it wanted to be: the people who wrote the Imperial Charter meant every word, no backsies or finger-crossing, when they wrote that “There shall be neither chattel slavery nor any other form of involuntary servitude in the Empire” clause, and a draft would definitely count. All that trying to institute one would do is give everyone a revolution to deal with as well as whatever other war might be going on at the time.)

Fortunately, the people in Imperial governance can generally be counted upon to adhere, philosophically speaking, to the “Any polity that can’t get its people to defend it voluntarily when the shit hits the fan deserves to end up covered in the aforesaid shit” position.

The majority of these personnel are professional, long-service officers and men who may not have chosen to make the IN a life-long career (given the very long if not indefinite lifetimes available), but who may well be spending as much time as tradition permits under the Six-Century Rule. The standard enlistment term is twelve years, Imperial calendar, with the option to extend “for the duration of hostilities” in the event of a major war breaking out. (There is a legal definition of exactly how major it has to be to enable this clause, but it’s never actually been tested.) A similar option permits the IN to recall former serving personnel who have agreed to enter the Reserve in the event of war: this, also, has not been tested except in “voluntary recall” mode.

Fortunately for the IN, it has a very technically competent population to recruit from, complete with strong cultural predispositions to maintain the generally high level of education, and with three-fifths of the population being spacers by domicile and culture, an equally high level of space-awareness. Unfortunately for the IN, these same conditions mean that the IN has to recruit the same pool of talented individuals in a very competitive market that everyone else is, and thus has to pay generous market-plus salaries; as mentioned back in Strategic Assumptions, personnel costs are one of the big three items on the IN balance sheet. It also compensates somewhat for this by the very high quality of the training offered to its personnel: it is understood to the point of cliche that a retired master chief boatswain’s mate, for example, can write his own ticket at any starport or space facility in the Empire or much of the rest of the Worlds, for almost any salary he cares to ask for.

As a consequence of this basis for its personnel, the distinctions between officers and enlisted personnel are primarily the distinctions between policy and execution; the ratio is slanted officer-heavy compared to many fleets, due to the greater automation of IN starships. Unlike many polities’ services, there is no particular social distinction between officers and enlisted personnel (everyone is a gentlesoph!); starships in the IN do not even have separate mess-decks by grade.

As should be expected from the IN policy of keeping the fleet forward-leaning and in continuous motion, peacetime manning levels are effectively the same as wartime manning levels; the Reserves are only activated, and the pace of recruitment increased, when an exceptional situation calls for it.

Organic Support Functions & Shore Infrastructure

While not entirely located within the IN itself administratively, the Imperial Navy provides for as much organic support as possible. To a large extent, this is necessitated by the limitations of secure interstellar communication and light-lag, as well as the problem of providing security for nodal bases in “hot” areas.

As such, the shore establishment is concentrated at Prime Base, at the six Supremacy-class mobile fleet bases, and at the fleet stations located at convenient points in the outer Worlds. The former are enormous concentrations of fabrication, maintenance, fueling, arming, and resupply capability, requiring very little in the way of outside support: the latter are lesser concentrations which act as nodes in the overall supply chain. Naval research, development, and prototyping is concentrated almost entirely at Prime Base, and at certain specialized facilities elsewhere.

To a certain extent, organic support is concentrated within ‘line’ starships themselves: theater and battlespace command is conducted from command-vessel superdreadnoughts, for example, while any capital ship is equipped to provide facilities for flag command. So far as supplies are concerned, fleet vessels are designed to be nominally stocked for up to a year’s peacetime cruising (allowing for on-board recycling and fabrication capacity) before requiring replenishment, although typical deployment lengths are only one-quarter to one-half of that.

In addition, though, the Imperial Navy assumes that its starships may need to operate at any time distant from the nearest available fleet station, and under circumstances which make it inconvenient at best to withdraw for resupply; as such, it coordinates with the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics to maintain an extensive fleet train including oilers, resupply colliers, hospital ships, personnel transports, and mobile maintenance yards, which are built to military standards  regarding drives and defenses, permitting them to deploy behind the fleet and resupply it both in situ and under way. The IN also provides CC/DD/FF escort squadrons for the fleet train and its forward-deployed logistics nodes.

(In addition to the dedicated fleet train, the Stratarchy has arrangements to charter civilian vessels for equivalent services in rear areas, where defensive capacity and the ability to keep station with naval units is not a factor.)

As a final note in this area, even training is organic: while both initial and follow-up training is provided to IN personnel at the Imperial War College (a shore establishment), all the Navy’s schools include ongoing training aboard supervised by the Operational Training Command. One learns best by doing, so they arrange that one should do.

Darkness Within (7): Headaches

MET 186-14-2

I have now completed a dead-reckoning navigational fix using the surviving server rack and data stored in the logs. The good news is that the kinetic impacts do not appear to have significantly altered Gutpunch‘s trajectory.

The bad news is that while the shit-pile’s no deeper than I’ve been assuming, it’s also no shallower.

Gutpunch was on a brachistochrone course for the Kerjejic stargate. Kerjejic’s an untenanted system but a major gate intersection, which made it the perfect place for the task force to meet back up after sweeping the Loop. Trouble with a brachy is that making your zero-zero counts on maintaining continuous deceleration throughout the second half of the course, so the moment your ship gets broken, you’re off on a long ride to nowhere. One of those ways in which space travel became less safe when better drives were invented, the irony of which is rather less appreciated when you’re experiencing it personally.

On my present orbit, I’m heading off into the Shards without intercepting anything further in this system. If these calculations are correct, I should reach another star system – IGS 88-99172-B, given some dubious assumptions about the emptiness of the deep black – in roughly 875,000 years.

I’d like to be rescued before then. Well, I would be rescued before then, but by the time the squadron notes that we’re overdue, comes looking, runs the search pattern, and so forth, they’ll be rescuing my backup out of my space-chilled skull. That seems rather unsatisfying, even if no unofficial salvors find us first. Narijic System isn’t what you might call the good part of town.

That defines the next problem, then:

I have four and a half days to build a candle, sufficient to move myself, the substrate, and preferably the FDR, that can produce enough acceleration, and have enough delta-v, to reproduce the second half of the brachy plus correction (although at least for lesser mass) – close enough that I can survive it without a vector-control core. The closer I get to the Kerjejic gate, the quicker I’ll be picked up once they start coming; and if I’m under thrust, I’ll be easy to spot.

Time to check out the remains of the hangar deck.

…and then there’s another impediment. Which I will not call a problem because there’s very little I can do about it that’s not already being done.

The impact evidently shook something loose in my own hardware that my medichines can’t find, or at least can’t fix, because drugs or no drugs, this headache is not going away. And now there are little light-haloes around characters I’m reading, and other irritating visual glitches. Which might mean that I’ve got a slow leak bleeding into my brain, except the ‘chines would have fixed that by now, but in any case, something is wrong upstairs that a good scanner and a healing vat could probably fix overnight, if I had either a good scanner or a healing vat.

As it is, there’s not much to do but hope that I don’t stroke out or go insane before I get the candle built, and that whatever it is doesn’t react too badly to being put under multiple gravities of thrust.

On I go.

Trope-a-Day: Space Cold War

Space Cold War: Oh, lots of them, simultaneously.  The Empire vs. the Voniensa Republic over AI rights, proper contact protocol, economics, and No Transhumanism Allowed.  The Silicate Tree versus AI-slaver civilizations, with contributions from the Photonic Tree, Empire, and others.  Random bits of the Rim Free Zone versus whichever states have annoyed it this week. The Leviathan Consciousness versus everyone who doesn’t want to be non-consensually hegemonized and optimized.  And so on and so forth, with many more smaller ones (about which also see Enforced Cold War).

Got to pass the time somehow, I suppose.