Friday, October 4, 2013

277: Pressure Ships

ENTRY 277: Pressure Ships

"Now you watch clanky, 'cause when we hit three hundred meters this hull is gonna squeeze like a tube of astronaut steak."
- Old Russ, Spacehand

Spacecraft, as a rule, are not designed to operate for extended periods within planetary atmosphere, much less in high-pressure zones of gas giants and underwater - where a spacecraft only has to try and keep the air inside from expanding outward, craft designed for high-pressure areas also have to accomodate the massive pressure of the atmosphere or fluid pressing inwards on the hull as well. There are further details to consider with regard to drag, the efficacy of engines and navigation in the different environment, and in the case of manned vehicles keeping the internal environment of the craft within acceptable limits to continue to support transhuman life, but what it generall boils down to is this: spaceships are (generally) not designed to go underwater or exploring the lower atmospheres of gas giants. The general solution for exploring and navigating about in the seas of Europa or gas giants like Jupiter are pressure ships designed specifically to ascend and descend, generally by adjusting pressure differentials or weight, taking inspiration from old Earth submersibles and rigid airships. Pressure ships generally have limited maneuverability, but as a rule of thumb vehicles that operate in a gaseous atmosphere are piloted with Pilot: Aircraft and those that operate in a liquid atmosphere use Pilot: Watercraft.

Space Balloon: These high-atmosphere vehicles are designed for navigating the (relatively) low-pressure upper atmospheres of many worlds, right up to the edge of space, and are especially popular on Venus. The balloon is filled with a lighter-than-local atmosphere gas, sometimes heated to generate additional lift or able to discharge ballast to lessen weight. They are especially cheap and ideal for delivering light cargo or personnel, but have limited directional control, especially in turbulent atmospheric systems like Mars. Space balloons are usable on Jupiter with some modifications by using different pressurized gasses to descend into the lower, high-pressure atmospheres. [Low]

Europan Bathyscaphe: A high-quality deep-diving submersible, the Europan bathyscape is a rigid craft with full life-support facilities for three transhuman biomorphs and contains a full suite of deep sea sensors; some even include a remote operating vehicle or specially-adapted deep-sea diving suits. The bouyancy of models is determined by a float filled with a dense, practically incompressible liquid hydrocarbon, and by ballast weights attached by electromagnetic seals. In an emergency if power fails, the bathyscaphe will automatically release its ballast and begin to ascend to the surface (assuming nothing has damaged the float). Without modification, a Europan bathyscaphe can descend over 10 kilometers deep. [High]

Jupiter Orion: The exploration of Jupiter's lower atmosphere is most easily accomplished by ambient pressure vehicles (i.e. those that do not have to support a transhuman biomorph-friendly atmosphere onboard), which are mainly operated by synthmorphs and informorphs. Once the difficulty of trying to keep a biomorph alive at the insane pressures and high gravities of sub-surface Jupiter are done away with, engineers can focus on trying to make a ship move and navigate through dense gases, with the knowledge that one false slip could send the craft and any egos aboard it crashing down to a surface where the pressure is so great that hydrogen gives up and becomes a metal. However, the Jupiter Orion is designed to operate far above such high-pressure zones, though far below where most spacecraft and aircraft can safely operate, and is designed as a prospector ship making sudden deep dives up to 10 bar in the atmospheres of gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn and come back out again. [Expensive]


  • Sky Mountain, a smaller Venusian aerostat is failing, rapidly losing upper atmosphere stability and falling into the upper atmosphere, where it is expected to break apart before impacting the surface. The station was evacuated in haste, and the emergency communications system has failed. The PCs are hired to quickly travel to the failing station and manually trigger its fallback system which will deploy space balloons with much of the irreplaceable data and cultural artifacts of the habitat for later retrieval; the PCs themselves can take a ride on the last remaining escape balloon. It's a race against time, but such are the deeds that reputations are built from.

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