Sling Drive

Faster than Light technology has been a dream for mankind since the ancient days of the 20th Century. With the extreme distances involved in interstellar travel, reaching even the closest stars to Sol would take multiple years. The ability to travel faster than the speed of light would drastically cut down the time it would take to traverse the galaxy.   This dream of faster than light travel remained elusive for centuries, with countless individuals working on the problem. Theories about warp bubbles, wormholes, and negative energy were pushed forward but still no working design had been created.   The breakthrough came in the late 24th century in the form of the Gravity Sling, the first practical method of achieving Faster then Light travel mankind had devised. Inspired by the "slingshot" gravity assist maneuvers that have been common in spaceflight for centuries, a Gravity Sling charges up by diving into a gravity well on a slingshot trajectory and then releases the stored energy in the form of a short-lived warp bubble. The lifespan of a warp bubble is dependent on how much gravitational potential it is charged with, and large amounts of power must be provided constantly.   Both the speed and distance that a vessel equipped with a Sling Drive can travel before the warp bubble collapses is proportional to the size of the drive and the "depth" of the gravity well being slung past.   Even relatively small bodies like gas giants can have deep enough gravity wells to charge the drive. The range of such a charge is short, but typically long enough for a short journey across a single solar system.   Travelling to low mass extra-solar bodies such as brown dwarf stars can be risky, as the gravity well may not be deep enough to charge the drive enough for a return trip. Countless vessels have been lost in this way.   There is no theoretical upper limit to the range of a Sling Drive of any size, however there is a practical upper limit. This limit is dependent on the vessel the Sling Drive is mounted on, and is determined by how close the vessel can physically get to an extremely dense stellar object such as a black hole or neutron star before the vessel's structure is torn to shreds by differential forces.   Although modern Sling Drives are far smaller than the early prototypes and production models, the smallest viable Sling Drive is still as large as a bus and requires the energy output of a small nuclear reactor to run.

Cover image: by NASA/JPL-Caltech


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