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 Virtual Worlds Space FreighterIntroduction
Space Freighter
Introduction
Design
Implementation
Space Freighter - The Origins
The basis for the Space Freighter virtual world came to me about 25 years ago when I was wondering what computer programme to write to fully utilise the 42kB user accessible RAM and 160x200 resolution, with 16 colours!, monitor of my new Amstrad CPC464. I had/have always found huge spaceships fascinating, (but a lack of artistic talent means my designs are all very dull), so I decided to write a programme that would mimic the displays on the flight deck of a space freighter.

"Distractions" (studying for exams), the unsuitability of BASIC for major programming activities, and probably a lack of planning :-D meant the programme never advanced beyond a few hundred lines of code.

I guess ideas never go away and are always knocking around in the subconscious and this one reappeared recently and quickly morphed from simulating the flight deck of a space freighter into a virtual world where space freighters ply the solar system.

"Space Freighter" is a virtual world of our realistic future, one in which space travel is governed by Einstein's Law of Relativity, so there is no travelling faster than the speed of light, (i.e. no WARP drive, Hyper-drive, etc.), time travel, worm-holes etc. So travel is limited to our Solar System.

Most of the Earth's population is moving to Mars. The barren landscape and inhospitable climate mean that mankind can expand freely without concern for environment degradation and will allow the fragile ecosystem of Earth to survive. Space Freighters would be used to transport people and the materials required for terraforming Mars

My original idea of writing a computer programme to simulate the flight deck of a space freighter has become an activity within the virtual world. For a machine as large as a space freighter, building a flight deck using the same design principles used in current aircraft would create a human machine interface that is too complex to operate. Even the glass cockpit of the A380 still has many physical switches, this isn't going to scale for use on a space freighter.

The flight deck of a space freighter will be filled with monitors and keyboards. As space freighters will be too large to enter the atmosphere there will be no need for any form of control yoke or side stick. All equipment on the freighter would be network enabled and therefore under direct computer control. Total "fly-by-wire" computer control will mean that the crew roles would include the role of flight programmer. The flight programmer would be responsible for developing and modifying/customising the flight control programmes and graphical user interfaces controlling the space freighter depending on the operational requirements of the captain, first officer, engineering officer and operators.

Space Freighter - The Virtual World
Space Freighter started as a flight deck simulation but in order to use the flight deck it has be wrapped in another simulation which provide the necessary inputs. If this simulator is made easily extensible, it can become a virtual world, allowing other people can use it to experience life were such craft move terraforming materials to Mars.

It's difficult to define the domain of a virtual world as it need only limited only by the imagination of the users of the world. Some may wish to be in their own world, while others in a world filled with the freighters and crews of others.

People who want to be space freighter captains can get a group of others together to develop a freighter; someone with artistic talent to develop a fantastic craft design; a navigator to plot the flight paths of the freighter; a flight engineer to design the drive systems and monitor them in flight, and a flight programmer to create and modify the necessary programmes for the other. Flight programmers may wish to develop flight control programmes for their own freighters or for other people's craft.

Freighter crew members may choose not to travel on the freighter itself. Instead leaving via shuttle and/or support by radio link, if there is a direct line of sight, or bouncing via other freighters (if they can get permission) or communications satellites, as available.

Other people may develop the ferry craft that transfer the contents of the freighter to or from the world, and arrange with captains for their ferries to load or unload the freighter, others may take on a desk role, scheduling a fleet of craft to ensure a constant supply of materials. Entrepereuial types may wish to set up trading companies, or set up a sattile communication network to support the communication between the freighter fleets of others.

While visitors to the virtual world may only wish to hire a shuttle and cruise around the planet and marvel at the designs of the orbiting space freighters and the stream of ferry craft flying to and from them.
Last modified 19 Feb 07