Communications in space is just as important as it always has been to humanity. In the years since humanity left earth, the challenges with communication have grown exponentially, and the instant gratification of the internet and mobile devices has taken a back seat to the slower pace of interstellar travel and the limited options when talking between stars. However, intersystem communication – communication between the worlds in a star system – is just as robust as pre-Dispora Earth. Consequently, communications can be divided into two major categories – interstellar communications and intersystem communications.
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Ever since the Astrum Diaspora period, communication between worlds has been something of a difficulty. While FTL alleviated the time between stars and made colonizing worlds possible, communication between star systems was still limited to light speed communication options. Simply put, starships outpaced radio waves. By that very fact, the courier was born.
Couriers were stripped down, high-speed starships intended to push the boundaries of faster than light travel. Like the pony express or the early mail airplane pilots, there was an air of romanticism to the courier pilots who traveled at the edge of the FTL speed barriers, dancing off the limits of their engines. Even after the development of Ansible technology (see below), couriers have remained an integral part to communication in the modern day.
Dedicated couriers are manned starships stripped down to the bare bone. Nothing more than an FTL engine, fusion core, and small habitat module, these ships favor speed over weapons, armor, or creature comforts. Employed by corporations, governments, and organizations, couriers are usually private vessels intended to relay information specific to their owner’s needs. Government couriers operate under the protection of their respective nations, cruising the star ways to deliver messages between the worlds of a star nation or to the embassy on distant capital worlds. Private couriers serve at the pleasure of their owners or corporate masters, often relaying vital information such as new orders, customer details, and other financial data.
Drone couriers are the unmanned variants of the dedicated couriers. Stripping down the ship’s weight even more – removing life support, crew areas, and any modicum of creature comforts enjoyed by their manned counterparts – drone couriers focus on raw speed, taking greater risks as they approach the limits of current FTL technology. With the benefit of speed, however, comes added risk. Drone couriers have no crew to manage issues should a propulsion casualty occur, and more than one drone courier has been lost out in the void thanks to equipment issues. Increasing reliability in FTL technology is changing the paradigm though, and drone couriers are becoming popular alternatives to their more expensive manned counterparts.
NATIONAL MAIL SERVICES
Each nation boats both private and public mail services for both cargo and communication services. Akin to the royal mail steamers of the United Kingdom of old earth, these registered ships provide guaranteed service across the star nation to which they belong, and many often have contracts with foreign nations to ensure a more pan-galactic reach. Achieving registration with an accredited private mail service is a valuable feather in the cap for starship captains, and most large starliner companies register their ships to their nation’s national mail services to bolster their profits on long interstellar voyages.
PUBLIC COURIER INITIATIVE
A relatively new concept and part of the growing age of interstellar communication, the public courier initiative uses existing starships and spacelanes to bolster registered mail services and make even regular mail services low cost. Starships equipped with a low-cost encrypted nanocore can upload a data dump before jumping to FTL, transmitting messages along their routes. While this new system has proven popular, concerns about the security of message traffic have delayed its white spread adoption with companies, governments, and security conscious citizens sticking with more official methods.
An ansible is a communication device able to transmit data instantaneously across vast distance utilizing quantum entanglement. Early ansibles were only able to communicate between one other unit to which shared the paired quantum particles. However, modern ansibles have been equipped with the ability to phase their entanglement to ‘tune’ to other ansibles and allowing data transmission between multiple locations to form an ansible-network. Most of these networks are only between planets of the same nation, though some exist between allies. More recently the Criers have been working to link all nations, establishing private ansibles on major capitals and key worlds in hopes of improving the flow of communication.
Invented in 3203 by renowned Empyrean physicist father Marc Kyrwin, ansibles rely on quantum entanglement of two particles. Existing in a paired state, the quantum particles change spin in tandem regardless of distance. Huge focusing elements and powerful reactors maintain the quantum particle locked in its phased state and allow for very precise manipulation at the particle at the highest possible speed.
Considered one of the most important discoveries of the new millennium, the Ansible was named by father Marc Kyrwin in honor of a similar device from an ancient work of fiction he had adored as a child. The first pair of devices were put into service between the Empyrean religious capital of Everdawn and the imperial capital of Leon. Shortly thereafter the technology was leaked to Alliance scientists who were able to reproduce the designs, linking Earth with the Alliance military headquarters on the planet Citadel. In the last century, Ansibles have become more prevalent, and while most are restricted to planets, large space stations, and other large installations some nations have begun installing them on their largest capital ships, allowing fleets to communicate with their commanders instantly across vast distances.
Communication within a star system is much easier than its interstellar cousin. Relying on some older technologies still as well as advances in gravity technology, intersystem communication is significantly higher data rate and with a greater capacity than anything possible with modern ansibles, and starships – upon arriving in a system – almost immediately sync up with the local data network around the same time their navigational systems lock onto the ship’s position in space. Much like humanity in the early 21st century, humans in the 35th century have an insatiable appetite for data and communication. Ships coming into the system bring news from across the galaxy with is pours into the data streams and updates on mobile devices across the star system. People contact each other via data networks, putting together business plans or catching up on news. Where interstellar communication is archaic and plodding, intersystem communication is lightning fast and robust.
At the heart of any modern FTL intersystem communication network are grav relays. Satellite-like devices, these relays transmit data in high density across a star system at near instantaneous father than light speeds. Working on the principles of gravitational resonance – a technology similar to that used in MAG-drive technology – grav relays transmit gravitational signals much like radio waves or light-based communication but at superluminal speeds. Transmitters on ships will link up with hubs in a star system to transmit their own data at the same speeds, and relays in orbit of planets take data transmitted to them from the surface and push it across the star system.
Grav relays must be built outside the gravity limit of a planetary body to overcome the background gravitational noise of a planet. Consequently, traditional radio wave, microwave, or laser signals are used to transmit data to a gravity relay for transmitting between relays. While some believed that grav relays could be the future of interstellar communication, tests showed that even the most powerful signals produced by relays without potentially harming the gravitational balance of a star system would fade into the gravitational background noise of a star system before even reaching the FTL limit of a star system, and the number of relays needed to create a communication bridge between star systems was cost prohibitive and far more cumbersome than the alternatives offered by ansibles.
Satellites are exactly like their early 21st century cousins. Orbital relays with self-contained power supplies, they bounce signals between planet based transmitters or send signals to grav relays to be transmitted across a star system. They are integral parts of any planets communication network and help the flow of communication around large space stations as well. They are cheap, vital elements in the 35th-century communication network, and many militaries will deploy their own, encrypted satellite network during the siege of and invasion of worlds.