Hello! I’m Jakub Wisz, the author of Stars in Our Sails and Project Aphelion, and this is the next development blog for the upcoming TTRPG Project Aphelion.
We covered the basics in the first vlog, so now we can get to the good stuff.
In this vlog, we’re gonna go over what makes the world spin – technology.
To make the Solar System of Project Aphelion as immersive and realistic as possible, I did more than just put people in spaceships and go talk with people with weird eyebrows. I went over every layer of society and tech and figured out how the major scientific and economic shift would influence the world in every aspect.
Human society in Project Aphelion survived a revolution that could be compared; I think only with the invention of internal combustion engine and flight – and I did my best to reflect that thoroughly and indiscriminately throughout the entire of Project Aphelion.
Trade, warfare, communication, culture, religion – everything changed when humanity took the first serious steps into space.
Let’s start from the beginning though – and I’m going to have to dip into the timeline of PA here, but I’ll try to stay on topic.
At the start of the 21st century, national governments and corporations realized that the global fossil fuel supply is at an end, and the shrinking deposits are not enough to reinforce the world’s fuel reserves. Various methods of producing renewable energy and fuel have been put to life – but it was too little, too late. Sounds familiar, eh?
A global crisis was predicted, and largely ignored by nation-states, and of course, it led to the total collapse of the global economy, followed by a societal crisis of unprecedented proportions and magnitude. Nations collapsed, international trade became a memory, alliance, and treaties became void – war, famine, disease, rap music, and other calamities became the norm.
Fortunately, before the world turned into a giant fustercluck, a couple of rich and scientifically inclined guys convinced corporate investors to pull their resources together and launch a daring space project – the building of a space station in the Solar orbit. The mission was dangerous, took years, many people died – but in a few decades, the station was built and started producing first solar collector satellites, and sent the first transfer of megajoules of energy to the transfer station built in Earth’s orbit. The world was saved, but forever changed, and the new economy depended on powerful lasers transmitting power directly from the Sun.
I’m not gonna get into much detail here – it’s a topic for another vlog. Suffice it to say, the global economy and industry needed the space infrastructure to function.
It changed everything – very soon, many more space missions launched, building more solar collectors and space stations. Of course, you needed material, and dragging everything from Earth to orbit and there wherever you needed it is a pain in the butt and an expensive one at that. Since it’s much cheaper to mine asteroids and moons without an atmosphere in the long run, very soon the entire Inner Solar System was teeming with activity.
The invention of the Solar Sail came soon after – in fact, we already have that technology right now in real life. I tried to use existing technology wherever possible throughout Project Aphelion and only used theoretical concepts where no previously applicable technology existed.
Solar Freaking Roadways
Anyway – the Sun was soon surrounded in a bubble of thousands of satellites and space stations; the next logical step was then to build the Waystations.
To put it shortly, the Waystation is a mix of a diner, gas station and an array of ridiculously powerful laser arrays used to propel spaceships anywhere in the Solar System – or even beyond. The entire Solar System in Project Aphelion has been divided into sectors, each serviced by a Waystation, creating a network of solar roadways, and letting humanity travel throughout the System at a good percentage of light speed. Thanks to the Solar Highway interplanetary trade and travel are possible and relatively quick.
Waystations themselves serve as a local hub of activity in each sector – Colonists and spaceship crews alike congregate there to get wherever they need to be or use the amenities that the hub provides, like restaurants, brothels, fuel stations, medical services and so on – literally anything legal or not is out there. Sure, governments and corporations do their bests to tax, regulate and maintain the law in the hubs, but organized crime and smuggling are commonplace. Hundreds of ships daily line up, either arriving or waiting to launch, so the traffic is quite immense.
Of course, once the ship gets to their desired sector, they then have to use its own propulsion to get to wherever it is they need to go – many different types of engines exist, the Laser Highway isn’t the only method of transportation. Within each sector, ships can use multiple drives – from lower yield lasers, nuclear jets, magnetic drives to particle ejection, the choices are there, if the crew can afford them.
The Solar Highway can send ships wherever, but every launch needs to be carefully calculated, especially the “long range” jumps that skip sectors to get to the destination without waiting in traffic – generally the more extended the jump is, the more dangerous it becomes because the amount of obstacles and problems that can occur on the way escalates like crazy. Combine that with the sheer number of traveling objects and the need for some universal GPS becomes apparent – and this is where the NaviNet comes in.
NaviNet, which is, of course, short for Navigation Network is a vast computer complex under silicone lakes of Titan. It takes a truly enormous and fast mega-computer to calculate those tens of thousands of routes daily without fail – Waystations or even planetary governments don’t have that much processing power at their disposal. NaviNet does the job for every faction, receiving and sending packets of information via a giant laser array. Of course, that makes the computer system extremely important for the interplanetary economy.
Since humanity is already using lasers for so many things, it was only natural to use them for communication also – sending bursts of lasers signals is a high-speed method of transferring data packages thanks to the fact that light tends to move quite fast. And so, a network of relay beacons was built. Each sector of space has several relays – used for both short jumps with a solar sail and bouncing communication laser bursts. Relays can send the burst to an object whose location is known by the NaviNet, thanks to the IFF transponders communication their position with – you guessed it – lasers.
That way, communication between ships and stations is relatively fast – though delays of minutes or even hours and days are not uncommon. Everyone within the network can also use their comm systems to access the SystemNet – a giant repository of information stored on the Titan Megacomputer. SystemNet not only stores the entirety of humanity’s public knowledge on a database known as the Great Library but also hosts the equivalent of real-life internet, with various sites, advertisement, services, bulletin boards, and entertainment sites, as well hidden networks serving freelancers, mercenaries and organized crime known colloquially as UnderNet.
The old saying goes, “never send a man to do a robot’s job.” It’s very true for Project Aphelion – automation and drones are commonplace in every sphere of life. Robots work in factories, food production, drive cars, pilot space ships, even build other robots. Any job tedious or dangerous enough gets assigned to drones remotely controlled by trained specialists, often not also located anywhere nearby. Asteroid mining, maintenance and salvage, and of course warfare are delegated to drones both in space and colonies – and even Earth itself. Drones fight in space in many roles, from missiles and boarding parties to point defense systems – and often replace infantry on the field, with real soldiers and pilots safe on board the mothership, remotely controlling their minions. After all, it’s cheaper to build a new drone than to train a new specialist soldier or pilot.
Production has also seen a significant shift, as the progress in small scale production units and 3d printers slowly phased out the idea of a “factory.” Pretty much all items, from food to electronics to weapons, are produced on-site. Whether the site is a household, colony module or a spaceship in the middle of the Great Beyond, doesn’t matter. If you have the blueprint, raw materials, and a proper assembler, you can craft anything you need wherever you are. Only massive, or complex products, like engines, spaceships, and so on are being produced in factories.
Majority of working human population is therefore either doing specialist work that cannot be effectively performed by machines (yet) or is stuck as a client of various states and corporations.
Nation states of Earth are slowly but inevitably changing into welfare states, unless they find a way to productively use their population to minimize the cost of human upkeep – or straight out export them to the Colonies, always hungry for new citizens and genetic material.
Complete change of economy to nearly unlimited solar power combined with almost universal automation changed every existing human society often beyond recognition – but that’s a subject for another time.
The times where humans where bound to live with the bodies and health they were born to are a thing of the past – especially true for wealthy elites, Colonists and specialist cadres as well as those that live on the fringes of society, like freelancer spaceship crews or criminals. Bioengineering, gene therapies, and cybernetic adjustments are available for those with the cred to purchase the extravagant biomodifications. Colonists living in harsh environments of the Outer Planets also modify their bodies and genes to better adapt to the conditions.
Soldiers, specialists working in dangerous or challenging professions, people who spend a lot of time in space, or criminals also modify their bodies to make their job easier and compete with ever-growing automation of the workforce.
Even your average citizens’ bodies often undergo bioengineering of some kind – to fix a genetic condition, make life more comfortable, or relieve a psychological need for it. Sometimes it’s merely a fashion statement.
Project Aphelion is a game in which the economy and society have gone through a lot of shakeups and drastic changes. Everything was revolutionized from the ground up – I’ve listed and described the major technological changes in this blog, but the list doesn’t end there. Those are just the significant factors that I’ve taken into consideration while building Project Aphelion’s societies, factions, and cultures. The aim is to create a realistic community and reflect the changes that logically follow the revolutions in science, industry, and technology.
That’s it for this blog, thanks for reading, I will be posting further updates and blogs quite soon – in the meantime, if there’s a topic regarding Project Aphelion or the novellas you wanna hear about, don’t hesitate and let me know.
Until then – I’ve been Jakub Wisz talking to you about Project Aphelion – see you next time!