In my last post I began to improve the consistency of my star map. I will continue with that effort – and today I will attempt to figure out just how much “project leapfrog” might affect the expansion of human space.
Project Leapfrog was a project the Federated Nations ran in the late 23rd Century – building vast colony ships that were then sent off to “leap ahead” of the regular exploration and colonization.
Just as a basis, this is what I worked out so far.
Leapfrog 2, “Francis Drake”, founded Eureka in 2308 and was “discovered” in 2390.
We do not have fixed locations for the other two Leapfrogs, nor dates they were contacted by the explorers and colonists that followed them. I did place them on the original map, of course, but for the purpose of improving the map I can easily shift them around.
Only Leapfrog 1, 2 and 5 ever made it – the other three are “lost”. Let’s look at each, starting with Leapfrog 2 because we know most about it.
The “Francis Drake” established a colony in 2308, after a travel time of 30 years. I have not designed the system yet, but for the sake of the map design let’s assume they landed on as near-perfect a world as they could find. You don’t travel 30 years to land on a Hell world if you have the choice.
We also do not know how many people these ships carried, but they were massive – 10 years construction time – and you don’t send such a ship out with a few dozen people. Let’s assume they carried 1000-5000 people plus all the equipment they could possibly need.
Population growth – It seems the highest growth rate Earth experienced was 2.2% – and currently it’s down to 1.1%. If we assume that a colony actively encourages people to have kids, we can probably assume something along the lines of the former value. Let’s round it up to 3% as an upper ceiling. So Eureka would grow like so:
Looking at these figures, we probably want a base population closer to 5000 people than 1000 people. Is this feasible? Sure, if you can build hyperspace ships that carry four-digits numbers of passengers in cryonic sleep, then whether you send of 1000 people or 5000 people probably doesn’t make a big difference.
Infrastructure – How long does it take to build a society and an infrastructure that supports space travel? Even assuming you do not have to figure it out from the ground up, this is a major undertaking. I think that 50000 people aren’t enough – after all, some of them have to work in agriculture or administration, as teachers, cops, and so on. If getting back into space is the single focus of the colony, and given the advanced technology and know how it starts out with, they could probably get to the point where they explore nearby systems fairly quickly. Colonizing any on their own is probably out of the question unless we count small outposts.
For comparison, the Apollo program employed 400,000 people at its peak. NASA currently has about 18,800 employees. SpaceX employs 1800 people. Both are obviously dependent on suppliers, but both are “low tech” space companies compared to Eureka. Building commercial airplanes – a much more mature “industry” – isn’t any less effort, though – Airbus employs 63000 people.
So, I think it’s safe to say that Eureka’s effect on human space by direct colonization was minimal. But having a supply base this far out was probably still a major boon; food, shelter, spare parts, rest & recreation facilities, and so on, probably helped a lot when the main wave of immigration hit the local area.
Direct colonization – How large would a society have to be to be able to support space industry and even send out colony ships of their own? I do not have hard data for this – and can’t really imagine where to obtain it. A planet would probably have to have millions of inhabitants. At what point does the population of Eureka hit, say, 10 million without immigration? If the growth rate is a constant 3%, it takes 312 years if the starting population was 1000; 258 years if the starting population was 5000 – compound interest really starts to add up.
The “Zheng He” was launched in 2277, and founded Chasm in 2317. On my original map, Chasm is about 1500 light years from Earth, more or less directly Rimward.
If we assume the same distance, it would get contacted by the FN roughly by the time the FN collapses, in circa 2640. That’s 323 years – at 3% population growth, Chasm has 70 million citizens at this point – and has probably been colonizing nearby systems for up to 70 years! It might even be an exploration ship from Chasm that stumbles across a Federated Nations colony or ship, just so that Chasm can be dragged into the civil war. This works really well, since it creates a dramatic situation that is good for all kinds of stories.
The “Leif Ericson” was launched in 2283 and founded “Secundus” in 2325. Secundus is, on my original map, about 1460 light years from Earth in the trailing direction – actually much closer to Home than to Terra. This is what I meant in my previous post when I talked about the Leapfrog project as a possible explanation for the elongated shape of human space.
Home might actually be a secondary colony of the Leif Ericson settlers.
At a constant 3% growth rate, Secundus would be at roughly 55 mio people if it is “discovered” at the exact same time as Chasm (with only 8 years less – compound interest doing its thing).
In 2580, when Home was settled, the population of Secundus was just under 10 million – or about the threshold I’ve set for “self-sustaining space industry and able to establish secondary colonies”. Perhaps Home – with such a “patriotic” name – was even the first colony set up by people from Secundus. I certainly do not see any reason why this should not be the case, and, speaking from a pure design point of view, interconnections are a Good Thing when you set up a timeline.
This would put Secundus within 100-200 light years of Home.
Finally – how much space would Secundus explore and/or colonize by 2643? Again, probably not a vast area – perhaps 300 light years, with colonies mostly closer to Secundus.
Putting it all on the Map
That was a lot of text – but now let’s put it all on our little map, shall we?
So far, so good. Because Empire will expand in the lower-right part of the map, the end result would probably again look “off center” – but this time with much, much less “blank” map space than before.