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Faster-than-light communication

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40px-Terminal.png This article, Faster-than-light communication, was written by The All-knowing Sith'ari. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.

Faster-than-light communication has been a Holy Grail for Human communications inventors for centuries, and for centuries was exactly that: Unobainable, and many would say, impossible. However, with the discovery of Slipstream Space, and continued research throughout the First Great War, FTL comms have become the standard method of communication between systems for citizens of the United Nations Space Command.[1]

Operation

The UNSC has two FTL comms systems available to it: The Slipspace COM Launcher and Slipstream Packets.

Slipspace COM Launcher

The Slipspace Communications (COM) Launcher is a communications mechanism invented by the UNSC in 2546 after repurposing ultra-precise Covenant Slipspace technology. A communications probe launched by an underground gauss accelerator and a Shaw-Fujikawa Slipspace Drive creates a Slipspace rift in high orbit which the COM probe enters like a "bullet" on an ultra-precise trajectory. It drops back into normal space at some very distant coordinates. The probe actually navigates through Slipspace and traverses as far and as fast as any UNSC ship.

The technology was originally thought to be able to revolutionize long-distance communication, being far faster than conventional radio communication. If each ship were outfitted with such a device, messages could be delivered without requiring a ship to manually carry the message, especially when the ship is further delayed by the Cole Protocol. Unfortunately, the cost to build a Shaw-Fujikawa ultra-precise low-mass launcher is comparable that of a fleet of ships, and even a single probe is worth the value of a capital city on an Outer Colony. Furthermore, while it is far faster than radio, it was still constrained by the comparitvely slow speeds of UNSC Slipspace engines, and was outraced by Covenant transmissions and engines. COM probes are not completely useless: With the latest Slipspace technology (c. 2575), they are terrifically fast, and all UNSC outposts and colonies maintain at least one launcher in the event of the local Comms satellites being destroyed in an attack. Furthermore, they are virtually impossible to intercept and so are perfect for sending long-range, one-way secure messages or information that cannot be transmitted via Slipstream Packets (see below). However, the COM Launcher was utterly impractical for ship-to-ship communication across only a few light-years, so the UNSC invested a great deal of effort into developing a medium-range FTL system that could be easily carried by a single ship. The result was the creation of the Slipstream Packet Generator.

Slipstream Packet Generator

The Slipstream Packet Generator, or "Slipbeacon", was developed as an FTL medium-range communications system for ships that could not carry a Slipspace COM Launcher. Though the theory had existed for decades beforehand, it was only the capture of Covenant Slipspace technology that allowed a practical communications system to be developed.

The theory is simply opening a rift into Slipspace in a similar manner to the COM Launcher, but instead of sending a probe through, sending a burst radio transmission through instead. To send a message, particle accelerators in the Generator create a micro-black hole, which under normal circumstances, should evaporate in a fraction of a second because of Hawking Radiation. However, microscopic amounts of negative mass are used to hold the black hole open, and so tunnel into Slipspace in the same manner as starship Shaw-Fujikawa engines. Next, an intense radar ping is sent through the rift in the direction of the recieving Generator. The disturbance can be picked up on the recieving ship's gravimetric sensors, instructing it to activate its own Slipstream Packet Generator in order to recieve the message (the recieving ship's gravity silhouette in Slipspace also distorts the ping somewhat, which can be detected by the sender. This led to the UNSC's development of slipspace radar in 2554).

The message typically consists of a text- or audio-only burst transmission, and transmission time is usually kept as short as possible, due to the immense power requirements of continually keeping the Slipspace rift open. Face-to-face video conversation is only ever done if abstract concepts need to be communicated. For example, just prior to the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV in 2552, Commander Jacob Keyes opened up a video link with Admiral H. M. Stanforth, who was in a system several light-years away, in order to get his rationale for requesting reinforcements across. In that case, non-vital systems such as interior lighting actually had to be shut down to provide the Generator with enough power to operate.

The Slipstream Packet Generator has a maximum range of around 15 light-years, at which point the signal degrades rapidly. The transmissions, however, are nearly instantaneous at these ranges and are much favoured by warship captains who may need to request reinforcements from the Sector headquarters in the event of a system invasion. However, while the transmissions are difficult to intercept, it is not impossible, and the Covenant has invested a great deal of effort in finding new ways of intercepting them. For this reason, messages are often heavily encrypted. Originally designed purely for the military, some of the system was made public to UNSC civilians in 2552, allowing them to exchange messages across systems and only having to wait up to two days for a reply. The brief interwar period from 2562 to 2565 allowed the system's full potential to be realised, and one of the first priorities of the Smithson Government was to modify the Extra Planetary Wide Web so that it was based entirely on a network of Slipstream Packet Generator-linked networks, allowing a Wikipedia edit made on one side of UNSC space to be available to someone on the other side in a matter of hours, rather than the months it would have originally taken to spread through the whole of UNSC space with the use of courier ships.

History

Though various theories of FTL communication involving quantum entanglement had been postulated on Earth before the advent of interstellar flight, none were taken beyond the hypothetical stage, due to the very nature of superluminal travel and communications being impossible under general relativity. Even with the discovery of Slipstream Space in the 21st Century, progress in the field of communications was painfully slow: With no external threats to the UNSC, there seemed no reason to waste billions of credits in developing a system that would allow rapid communication between colonies and might not even work at all - courier ships were fast enough for civilians, and since UNSC warships were the fastest Human craft, and was not as if Insurrectionist vessels could outrace or outmanouevre them without incredibly precise timing. A downside to this was that interstellar messages could be delayed by nearly a year if they were sent from one side of UNSC space to another.

However, with the advent of the First Great War, the UNSC's complacency in this issue would nearly be their undoing. Covenant ships were actually capable of outracing UNSC courier ships, and so by the time requested reinforcements arrived at an attacked system, they would often find that the planet had already been glassed and the Covenant had moved on. The UNSC desperately needed to find a way to improve their FTL comms. Radio signals sent while in Slipspace proved to be a stop-gap measure, as the signals degraded after a number of light-years. A solution seemed to present itself in 2546 when, after repurposing ultra-precise Covenant Slipspace technology, the UNSC invented the Slipspace COM Launcher. However, the cost to build a Shaw-Fujikawa ultra-precise low-mass launcher was comparable that of a fleet of ships. Furthermore, while it is far faster than radio, it was still constrained by the comparitvely slow speeds of UNSC Slipspace engines, and was outraced by Covenant transmissions and engines. The COM Launcher was also utterly impractical for ship-to-ship communication across only a few light-years, so the UNSC invested a great deal of effort into developing a medium-range FTL system that could be easily carried by a single ship.

Developed in 2550, the Slipstream Packet Generator was the solution, and proved its worth in 2552 just prior to the Battle of Sigma Octanus IV, when Commander Jacob Keyes opened up a video link with Admiral H. M. Stanforth, who was in a system several light-years away, in order to get his rationale for requesting reinforcements across. Originally designed purely for the military, some of the system was made public to UNSC civilians in 2552, allowing them to exchange messages across systems and only having to wait up to two days for a reply. The brief interwar period from 2562 to 2565 allowed the system's full potential to be realised, and one of the first priorities of the Smithson Government was to modify the Extra Planetary Wide Web so that it was based entirely on a network of Slipstream Packet Generator-linked networks, allowing a Wikipedia edit made on one side of UNSC space to be available to someone on the other side in a matter of hours, rather than the months it would have originally taken to spread through the whole of UNSC space with the use of courier ships. The system also lead to the creation of FTL-equipped reconnaissance drones and later the development of the REM-226 Gungnir, which was instrumental in winning the Second Great War for the United Powers.

References

  1. A study of Human technological advances throughout the Great Wars: 2525-2572

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