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Library: spatial navigation system operation

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Author: Ran
Date:Jun 26 1997

The most important system to understand when using any ship designed for
interplanetary and intersystem travel is how to use the "spatial navigation
system".  Without this, you can't use the ship for transport, which is the
main purpose of the ship.  Other texts will cover secondary systems such as
matter transport, weaponry, life support, defensive systems, and the use of
modular cargo bays, as well as the use of smaller defensive craft.

Space is composed of small locations of importance with relatively large
amounts of distance between.  The actual travel between these points can be
done by a number of methods.  In most cases, some velocity is reached, and
some transit time is involved.

A navigational system, perhaps known as a "computer", is on board the ship to
coordinate travel between different places of importance.  The main use and
operation of the ship as a means of transport requires the utilization of this
navigational system to enter destinations.
 
The distances in space are extremely vast.  Because some star systems move in
a slightly irregular and not generally wholy predictable fashion, it is often
necesarry to do some changes to course mid-route.  Fortunately, the ship is
likely to have an "auto" mode, where this is done automatically by the
computer.

The first important step is to calibrate the navigational system.  Certain
systems which are far away from any gravitational disturbance, and therefore
move in a predictable fashion for the near future, as well as knowledge of the
ship's current location are used to calibrate the navigational computer.  If
the first are unavaliable, due to being completely blocked by planetside, or
such, then a backup system uses "stationary" transmitters placed at known
locations throughout space to calibrate itself.  

Entering commands are difficult for a novice operator.  A typical system has a
large screen and a keyboard-like device below it.  But the keys on the
keyboard-like device (called the "entry module" or "input module") have no
letter-markings, each cooresponds to a different command which changes as the
mode or state of the system changes.  You can display the command on the
bottom of the screen by holding down the display key (which is typically the
leftmost key on the pad) and pressing the appropiate key.  This shows you what
pressing that key alone will do.
An experienced operator remembers what each key means in each mode and
therefore doesn't have to do this anymore.

Using the commands for the unit, you can enter a new location you wish to
visit and engage the system, which then takes control of the ship and guides
to that location.  While the system has control of the ship, all functions are
done through the system.  Because of the wide array of different drive systems
and such, which require different operating parameters, there is not a
standardized interface.  Typically, the key on the leftmost of the input
device is "display" and the key on the rightmost is "previous state", but even
this isn't standardized anymore.  So it is helpful if you can read the
language and figure it out yourself.

Locations of importance are entered using a 3-dimensional x,y,z system.  The
units agreed upon are [untranslatable].  But in most cases the places you want
to go will already be entered in the system.  Some systems may have an
improved entry interface using some kind of 3-D modeling or such. But local
"cluster" knowledge may be helpful.  Be wary of visiting systems you know
nothing about, this can prove to be dangerous.


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