FSpaceRPG article

Status: Official

During the early phases of manned exploration of the solar system, mankind deemed it necessary to influence the orbits of small asteroidal and cometary bodies in the system, mainly to change their orbits, so as not to hit inhabited regions, such as on Earth, the Moon and Mars, along with various orbital operations.

The idea of the gravity tractor came out of early 21st century concepts regarding how to to achieve slight orbital changes years or decades in advance, with the use of more violent detonation techniques or expensive propulsive methods.

Every body in space exhibits a gravitational field, and two bodies close together can mutually influence each other. Even a small mass can influence a bigger body. A small robot spacecraft with ion reaction engines to reposition itself could slowly herd a far largely asteroid over time.

Because Spaceguard efforts to track asteroids int he solar system, Terrans could predict the bodies that were dangerous and deploy suitable robotic gravity tractors to intercept and begin the process of hurting with enough warning, or use this as a method to do herding after a more direct method of defection was attempted.

Such tractors ranged from golf cart sized to herd half kilometre or less sized asteroids to Soyuz sized tractors for those of a larger size. Sometimes several would be deployed at once to work in coordination.

After space mining of asteroids was established in the mid 21st century, the use of gravity tractors become more common, and a programme of mass use begun around 2070AD, not only to use them for protective purposes, but to also herd mining candidates into suitable orbits ripe for exploitation.

Even with the advent of modern granitic technology in the mid 22nd century, a fleet of thousands of ion engine powered gravity tractors continue to operate throughout the solar system, some operating for Spaceguard, others for mining companies, and many just to assist stabilising orbits or small asteroidal stations following the arrival and departure of spacecraft and starships as their mass influences the orbits of these locations.

Similar programmes involving gravity tractors have been implemented in recent times with colonial activities in other systems - Barnard being the most well known - principally for mining and safety reasons - even though the system does not have a habitable planet.

In the Vega system, both conventional gravity tugs are being used, as well as experiments in using tugs equipped with advanced gravity field generators for less invasive, but more rapid orbital changes.

Categories: Starships

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