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Logistics
Logistics
Image from Alex Mulvey
A relay station receives material packets for the megastructure below
Logistics is the detailed coordination and implementation of complex tasks, especially the sourcing and transportation of raw materials and processed objects from their original location to their required destination. Originally the concept of logistics was largely a military one, concerned with the organisation of military supply lines, though it was eventually broadened to refer to any advanced interconnected supply system. The circumstances of logistics for these contexts have since changed drastically.

Warfare across interplanetary and interstellar distances faces many logistical problems, since any military mission must carry enough supplies to support its activities until such time that raw or salvaged materials can be commandeered along the way. The original context of the term, that of needing to keep a steady stream of supply to an established army, is less significant in the Current Era, since such supply chains are rarely viable over such vast distances.

Similarly the complications of creating an interconnected network of individually managed supply chains between various multi-body industries also has limited contemporary applicability, though this context can still be found across Terragen space. In the current era, transapients or their agents will often handle all the complications of a supply chain from origin to destination, even with innumerable continuously changing factors, and will do so effortlessly given their computing power. A transapient may delegate a brain node to a particular area to organize the local logistics chain segment and react to changes.

Even lower-tech logistical systems, those handled at the highest level by modosophonts, have a very high level of autonomy. Given the distances between even closely orbiting neighbors, along with the scarcity of material in open space, it is common that any close-knit established civilization run by modosophonts will have the ability to meet all of its energy and material needs internally. Similarly, while midtec civilizations must go to advanced means to create a given finished product from constituent resources, and require localized specializations to do so, today even basic interplanetary civilizations possess the ability to construct relatively anything from basic elements.

Logistical concepts as a whole throughout Terragen space maintain infinite variety. The transfer of mass within a single section of any given megastructure can be a complicated process worthy singularly of extensive analysis. There are a selection of basic methods which an initial extraction process may take, but once the given materials are at a destination, it is there that the potential for further logistical process grows exponentially. A frequent end result for a processed packet of raw material is to either be used in construction immediately by utility fog, or placed into a mattercache for later use.

At individual-use scales, the actual distribution of goods and services is typically fed directly to consumers in the form of autofabricators, which will draw material from a mattercache to create any tangible construct. As such the end result of a supply chain of the current era is not delivering a finished item to a consumer, but rather supplying the consumer with the necessary material to effortlessly construct the item emself.


Extraction

Projects which require logistical planning and support include the construction and maintenance of habitats and habitable megastructures; resources for life support in biospheres, stations and ecumenopoli; the raw materials required for processing substrates such as computronium nodes, moon-brains, planetary brains and stellar-scale intelligent superobjects such as Matriosha brains, and the construction and supply of interplanetary and interstellar craft.

Resources for these projects can be extracted from molecular clouds and other nebulae, from asteroid belts and Oort clouds, the mining and disassembly of planets, from accretion disks around black holes and protostars, and from the atmospheric envelopes or interiors of stars via star mining and star lifting.

Often these extraction processes are accompanied by large amounts of waste heat, which may require the construction of large radiating surfaces of various kinds to assist with cooling.

Transportation

Infrastructure near Europa
Image from Alex Mulvey
An Interplanetary Age transportation operation near Europa
Material is transported across the reaches of space in a variety of ways, dependent on numerous factors including but not limited to technological level, distance, pre-established infrastructure, construction plans, the circumstances of the destination, and the type and mass of the transported material. Extracted material is packed for transport in itself a variety of forms similarly dependent on the same circumstances. Catapult systems are a very general-use method within local planetary system and interplanetary distances alike, consisting of series of mass driver arrays which launch material at the shipping end and "catch" it at the receiving end. Matter is in some cased bundled into large packets to be sent and received at more dispersed intervals, while in other cases it may be refined into pellets like those used in mass stream technology and fired in continuous streams.

Other similar types of accelerators are applicable in other applications. There are various methods for getting material to space from gravity wells of planet or suprashell surfaces, the most common being launch ramps which accelerate the material along a track and release into space. This method requires large-scale static or at least semi-static infrastructure, and as such the operations on the surface will have a focus on centralizing the material towards a point at the beginning of the track.

Thrust propulsion methods are also utilizable for transportation. Many space-based mining operations such as those within an asteroid belt or planetary rings — or even world surface-based ones where the launched material is collected in space — will have centralized infrastructure for refining the material and preparing it for a mass stream catapult. The raw material is gathered from the general region and sent to the refinement zone using thrusters, as the material in its pre-processed state is not set up to be fired along a mass driver, and the associated short distances don't warrant their usage regardless.

Interstellar transportation can take two routes, either directly between stars or using established wormholes. Matter packets may be treated like any other ship in regards to wormhole travel, although on occasion some systems have dedicated wormholes (or at least dedicated routes for general use wormholes) that constant streams of exported material will take en route to another star system. Direct interstellar transportation will utilize the same methods as interplanetary, simply on larger scales. Civilizations may build larger and more dedicated infrastructure specifically for interstellar export.


Reception

Jovian future
Image from Alex Mulvey
A magnetic receiver relay near current-era Europa, one of millions in the region
Logistical infrastructure set up to receive exported material varies widely depending on the nature of the operations of the system. A small singlehab can be set up in moments from a single mattercache, and as such needs no established infrastructure to build, while a megastructure circumferencing a star may take millennia and require innumerable arrays of material reception and staging locations. Mass streams do require material processed into specific relatively homogenous packets, and thus in order for the packets to be slowed down it is necessary for mass stream relays to be present at the destination, which will not be the case in undeveloped space. Magnetic accelerators can be utilized to launch packages of matter capable of self-propulsion which stop themselves on approach to their destination

Structures at smaller scales, up to the size of a few kilometers along any given axis, can potentially source their needed resources on demand from pre-harvested material kept in local orbital storage facilities. Nanoswarms (which may come with the material as a service or be present at the destination) may be utilized as construction crew to assemble the structures. These services are typically available on a case-by-case basis for the typical progressive expansion seen by any developing civilization as it encounters new necessities, such as in anticipation of colonist arrival or expansion, a transapient constructing new brain nodes, or virch relays to house new digital infrastructure.

At these scales, but where vast supply is not readily available, material will have to be allocated from extractors and sent directly to the destination. These operation conditions are common in early developing systems, and typically will have been planned out long in advance.

As the scale of projects increase, so does the required focus necessary to supply it. The larger the project, the more pre-allocated material needed to produce it. This typically involves either material straight from processing infrastructure directly to the needed location, or to a relay hub where the material is captured on its journey and stored for a short period of time before use.
Herders
Image from Juan Ochoa
Herders accompanying a stream of cargo
Dense streams of material packets are sometimes accompanied by Herder craft, which regulate the speed and separation of the packets, and ensure they do not collide with each other. These Herders also sometimes act as security guards, to prevent interception or pilfering by pirates or other kleptoparasites.

Limiting material packet streams to particular point-to-point routes has several advantages, whether the destination be anything from a Bishop Ring to a tight assemblage of rotating orbitals. Many supply chain distribution methods involve mass stream networks, with receiver stations at the destination acting as the brakes for streams of packets. An additional benefit of this consolidation is the minimized impact on other local traffic, as well as reduced clutter of the surrounding space. There is also the possibility that some aspect of the chain may fail to operate correctly. Aiming the matter streams at a point offset from an infrastructure project can help to ensure that the construct is not bombarded with packets should some aspect fail.


Transportation on the surface of a planet or megastructure

Under the megastructure
Image from Alex Mulvey
The space underneath a habitable megastructure often supports multiple transport tubes carrying resources.
It is often necessary to move or redistribute material goods and other resources on, above or below the surface of a planet or megastructure. Large flows of resources are often handled via concealed channels, to maintain the unspoilt characteristics of the habitable surface. Goods tubes may contain flowing fluids or powders, often kept in motion by pumping stations at a wide range of scales. Tubes may also contain and protect maglev vac-rail systems, which may be specialised towards carrying freight or may also convey passengers.

Vac-trains may also be found on the surface in many places, and a wide range of different railroad systems can be found throughout the Terragen Sphere, using different arrangements and gauges of rail.

Cargorigs on Zompah
Image from Steve Bowers
Sophont Cargorigs carry dangerous goods across the high plains of Zompah
Road systems are an alternative to vac-trains, and may support road traffic which is entirely automated, or (more rarely) conveyed by sophont vehicles or driven by modosophont truck-drivers (an activity that is a popular pastime on many worlds).

Other forms of resource conveyance that may be encountered on many worlds are aircraft, from very small drones to giant cargo planes, swarmbots (which often carry vast amounts of material from mine or storage depot to the point of use) and rolling roads or conveyor belts which can carry resources for significant distances.


Transporting Megascale Objects in complete form

Gravity Tug
Image from Alex Mulvey
A gravity tug system using two massive craft in orbit around a point forward of the asteroid itself. As the tugs exert thrust they drag the asteroid behind them, using the asteroid's own gravity
There are some cases where the logistical concern is a flow of raw or refined material, but large scale or megascale structures which need to be delivered in a complete form. Relocating entire moons, planets, and even stars requires unique and specialized technology. The decision to transport a massive body without disassembly (to reassemble it later, or use its mass more efficiently) is one which only a suitably capable culture can make. Artificial constructs also may need to be moved as a whole, such as active computronium nodes or sections or complete megastructures. These objects are often inhabited or otherwise in use, so it will not be practical to break them down into constituents.

Planetary bodies are moved for a variety of reasons. Moons are sent into different orbits around their world or another, or turned into ships and taken across space. Worlds might be relocated for more preferable temperatures closer or further from a star, or to be disassembled and turned into an artificial construct within the new orbit.

To move such large objects requires very large scale propulsion systems, and often entails relatively gentle acceleration. Massive gravity tugs, mass streams and Stellar Propulsion systems can move large objects gradually, while more advanced technology such as halo swarms can be used to drag objects more rapidly.
 
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Development Notes
Text by Alex Mulvey
Additional material by Steve Bowers
Initially published on 18 March 2021.

 
 
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