Friday, January 30, 2015

Shipboard Terminology



Those spending any time aboard spaceships will quickly notice a different kind of jargon in use. What any groundhugger might usually call a toilet, they'll hear refered to as a "head", which isn't to be confused with the "overhead" or ceiling. Even things as fundamental as time may differ between ships and definitely between worlds. Here is a short primer on common spacer lingo.

Orientation Terminology

While it may seem silly to have to address something as simple as what constitutes "up" or "down", in space without gravity, such terms quickly become arbitrary and relative. The following terms are used with sufficient regularity to be of use among spacers.

Abaft – Toward the aft.
Aft – The “back” of the ship. This is usually in the direction of thrust. The pilot typically sits with his back facing the aft, or abaft.
Celestial Equator – The apparent path across the stars traced by the primary as observed by the defining orbiting body orbiting the primary. In Sol, this is the path the Sun traces as observed on Earth.
Defining Orbiting Body – The celestial body orbiting the primary star upon which the celestial equator, ecliptic north, and ecliptic south are based.
Dorsal – The ship’s “top”. This is 90° from both the fore-aft axis and port-starboard axis. It is arbitrarily determined, but usually corresponds with the part of the ship above the pilot’s head.
Ecliptic Coordinates – The coordinate system used to describe the position of planets and heliocentric ships and their motions within a solar system. Latitude and longitude give direction to a vector originating at the primary star within the system, and the magnitude is the distance from the primary to the position.
Ecliptic Latitude – The angular distance of an object perpendicular to the galactic equator; positive to ecliptic north and negative to ecliptic south.
Ecliptic Longitude – The angular distance of an object eastward along the ecliptic from the defining orbiting body's vernal equinox in its northern hemisphere.
Ecliptic North – The direction considered “above” the ecliptic plane. This is defined using the right-hand method with the forefinger curling in the direction of orbital rotation and the thumb pointing away from north. A person standing at the defining orbiting body facing the primary rotating around it toward his left would define “upward” as north.
Ecliptic Plane – The plane that contains the celestial equator.
Ecliptic South – The direction considered “below” the celestial plane. This is defined using the right-hand method with the forefinger curling in the direction of orbital rotation and the thumb pointing toward south. A person standing on the defining orbiting body facing the primary rotating around it toward his left would define “downward” as south.
Fore – The “front” of the ship. This is usually in the direction of acceleration. The pilot typically sits facing the fore, or forward.
Forward – Toward the fore.
Galactic Center – The radio source Sagittarius A*.
Galactic Coordinates – The coordinate system used to describe the position of stars and their motion within the galaxy. Galactic latitude and longitude give direction to a vector originating at the Sun, and the magnitude is the distance from the Sun to the position.
Galactic Equator – The line passing through both the Sun and the galactic center.
Galactic Latitude – The angular distance of an object perpendicular to the galactic equator; positive to galactic north and negative to galactic south.
Galactic Longitude – The angular distance of an object eastward along the galactic equator from the galactic center as measured at the Sun.
Galactic North – The direction considered “above” the galactic plane. This is defined using the right-hand method with the forefinger curling in the direction of galactic rotation and the thumb pointing away from north. A person standing at the Sun facing the galactic center rotating around it toward his left would define “upward” as north.
Galactic Plane – The plane in which most of the stars of the galaxy are located.
Galactic South – The direction considered “below” the galactic plane. This is defined using the right-hand method with the forefinger curling in the direction of galactic rotation and the thumb pointing toward south. A person standing at the Sun facing the galactic center rotating around it toward his left would define “downward” as south.
Inward – The direction opposite outward that points toward the spin axis.
Outward – The direction away from the spin axis toward which centrifugal gravity pulls. This is usually in a plane 90° from the direction of thrust.
Port – The “left” of the ship. This is arbitrarily chosen and usually coincides with the pilot’s left.
Spinward – The direction of rotation in a compartment employing centrifugal gravity.
Starboard – The “right” of the ship. This is the direction 180° from port and usually coincides with the pilot’s right.
Trailing – The direction opposite of spinward.
Ventral – The ship’s “bottom”. This is 180° from dorsal and usually corresponds with the part of the ship beneath the pilot’s feet.
X – The axis along which primary thrust propagates. The direction of thrust is called -X and the direction of acceleration is +X. The pilot usually faces +X. The X-Y-Z coordinate system is used to describe thrust and maneuvers. While the X axis often corresponds with the fore-aft axis, it does not always.
Y – The axis passing through a person’s shoulders who is facing +X. The exact Y-Z orientation of such a person is arbitrary. The pilot serves as the reference person with +Y being right and -Y being left. While the Y axis often corresponds with the port-starboard axis, it does not always.
Z – The axis passing through a person’s head and feet who is facing +X. This is always 90° from both X and Y with +Z being “footward” and -Z being “headward”. While Z often corresponds with the dorsal-ventral axis, it does not always.

Shipboard Terminology

There are a variety of linguistic differences between grounder speak and spacer lingo. Many of these relate to parts of a craft, but some are unique to life in the void.

Aerospace Craft – A vessel capable of operating in both atmosphere and space. Spaceships capable of landing on a planetary surface are often still called spaceships if space is their primary medium of operation.
Astrocom – Astrogation computer. The astrocom terminal is located in the astrogator’s station where he programs and runs simulations to determine the most optimal courses for the ship. In starships, it also computes jumps and may be refered to as a jump computer.
Bridge – The room or stations where the ship is directed. This usually consists of the astrogator’s station and the helm.
Brow – Any walkway or catwalk leading to the main airlock.
Bulkhead – An airtight pressure wall.
CIC – Short for Combat Information Center.
Combat Information Center – This is the tactical center of a warship. It supplies the commanding officer – who may be physically present or commanding from the bridge – with all of the information required to fight a battle.
Companionway – Any hallway or corridor.
Conning Officer - The officer in charge of directing the spaceship's movement at any given moment – the helmsman will only accept orders from him. An officer announces he is taking over by saying, "I have the conn."
Damage Control Center – The room where the damage control officer coordinates all damage control parties. It is often located in or near engineering.
Damage Control Locker – A locker containing emergency repair supplies such as temporary hull patches, portable power generators, fuses, fire extinguishers, and tools. Contents will vary by location in a ship.
DCC – Short for Damage Control Center.
DCL – Short for damage control locker.
Deck – A floor in a spaceship.
Doors – A non-airtight non-pressurized door. These are usually flimsy.
Galley – A spaceship's kitchen.
Hatch – An airtight pressure door.
Head – A shipboard toilet.
Helm – The crew station from which a ship is piloted.
Hulling – Any puncturing of a spaceship’s pressure hull.
In vs. On – People serve in spaceships, not on them.
Lost and Found – The area around intake air vents where all loose and untethered items eventually collect.
Mess Deck – The dining room aboard a spaceship.
Overhead – Any ceiling.
Rack – A typical bunk bed onboard a spaceship.
Ship – Can refer to an airship, nautical ship, spaceship, or starship; it usually refers to one of the lattermost three.
Ship Locker – The room or compartment where all small stores and supplies the ship needs on a daily basis are stored. This includes medical supplies, survival gear, small-arms locker, and the slop chest.
Sick Bay – This is the medical center for the ship. It may be a locker with a first aid kit or a full medical office with diagnostic gear, surgical robots, and a small pharmacy.
Slop Chest – A compartment that contains convenience items and consumables for the crew, often sold by the ship’s purser. It is kept in the ship locker.
Spaceship – A vessel capable of operating in space.
Starship – A spaceship capable of interstellar travel.
Wardroom – Officer’s dining room.
XO – The second in command of any ship.

Units & Measurement

Measurement in space tends to use a mix of SI units and units based on distances in and around Sol. The following tend to be used more among spacers than groundpounders.

Astronomical Unit – Defined as the average distance between the Earth and the Sun. Approximately 150,000,000,000 meters. Abbreviated "AU".
AU – The abbreviation for astronomical unit.
Decasecond – Ten seconds. Abbreviated "ds".
Earth Century – One hundred Earth years, or 3.16 gigaseconds.
Earth Day – Twenty-four Earth hours, or 86.4 kiloseconds.
Earth Hour – Sixty Earth minutes, or 3.6 kiloseconds.
Earth Minute – Sixty seconds, or 6 decaseconds.
Earth Month – Thirty Earth days, or 2.6 megaseconds.
Earth Week – Seven Earth days, or 604.8 kiloseconds.
Earth Year – The time it takes the Earth to complete one orbit about the sun. This is X Earth days, or 31.6 megaseconds.
Gee – A measure of acceleration equal to the standard surface gravity at Earth's equator at sealevel. It is approximately 9.80665 meters per second squared. Abbreviated "g".
Gigasecond – One billion seconds. Abbreviated "Gs".
Kilosecond – One thousand seconds. Abbreviated "ks".
Light-Second – Defined as the distance light travels in one second. Approximately 300,000,000 meters. Abbreviated "LS".
Light-Year – The distance light travels in one Earth year. Approximately X meters, X AU, or X LS. Abbreviated "LY".
Local Time – The timekeeping system used on a celestial body. This almost always defines days, months, and years based on local sidereal days, seasons, and orbital periods; and uses standard time units for all smaller measurements.
LS – The abbreviation for light-second.
LY – The abbreviation for light-year.
Megasecond – One million seconds. Abbreviated "Ms".
Parsec – Defined as the distance at which one astronomical unit subtends an angle of one arcsecond. This is approximately 30,000,000,000,000,000 meters or 3.26 light-years.
Second – The time it takes light to travel approximately 300,000,000 meters.
Ship's Time – The timekeeping system used on board a spaceship. Spaceships on long interplanetary voyages often begin with their clocks synchronized to their point of embarking and gradually adjust it over the course of the journey to match that of their destination. Other ships may use any given shipboard time, but most afford about thirty kiloseconds to sleep and sixty to waking time.
Standard Time – This is a metric timekeeping system with the second as the base unit of measurement.
Tonne – One thousand kilograms or one megagram.

Military Ranks

While definitely useful on military vessels, these ranks are often mirrors on civilian ships as well. After all, every spaceship requires military precision and discipline to avoid disaster. It is doubtful whether or not civilians will ever be able to blithely board a spaceship without noticing an immediate and overwhelming difference in attitudes both toward them and among the crew themselves.

Captain – The commissioned rank above commander. This is the rank regularly charged with command of a spaceship.
Chief Marshal – The commissioned rank above marshal. Chief marshals are usually in charge of entire theatres of operation.
Chief Master Sergeant – The rank above senior master sergeant. They usually serve as aids to high ranking officers and staff important base positions.
Chief Mater Warrant Officer – The rank above warrant senior master officer.
Commander – The commissioned rank above lieutenant commander. This is the lowest rank that can command a spaceship, albeit a small one. The XO is often a commander.
Commodore – The commissioned rank above captain. Commodores usually command small task forces.
Ensign – The lowest commissioned officer rank. Ensigns typically serve as low level managers and supervisors. They would be wise to listen to their sergeants.
Lieutenant – The commissioned rank above sub-lieutenant. They form the backbone of the officer corps.
Lieutenant Commander – The commissioned rank above lieutenant. A lieutenant commander often serves as an aid to a commander or captain, or he is charged with command of a large section of a ship.
Marshal – The commissioned rank above vice marshal. Marshals are usually in charge of fleets.
Marshal of the Fleet – The commissioned rank above chief marshal. There is only one marshal of the fleet, and he is responsible for the operation of the entire force.
Master Sergeant – The rank above technical sergeant. They typically aid command officers, train new recruits, or lead squadrons of enlisted men.
Master Warrant Officer – The rank above warrant senior fficer.
Officer Cadet – The lowest rank any officer can be. This is the temporary rank given an officer while still in training. Sergeants who apply and are accepted as an officer candidate have their sergeant's rank temporarily suspended while in training.
Senior Master Sergeant – The rank above master sergeant. They usually serve as aids to commanders or hold important shipboard administrative positions.
Senior Master Warrant Officer – The rank above warrant master officer.
Senior Warrant Officer – The rank above warrant officer.
Spacecraftman – The rank above spaceman apprentice. Spacemen are competent crewmembers usually with a year of service experience.
Spacecraftman Apprentice – This is the lowest active rank in the space force. Spaceman recruits are promoted to spaceman apprentice upon graduating basic training.
Spacecraftman Recruit – The lowest rank in the space force. This is the rank given a new recruit still in training.
Specialist – The lowest noncommissioned officer rank.
Sub-Lieutenant – The commissioned rank above ensign. They usually have around a year of experience in the field.
Technical Sergeant – The second noncom rank and backbone of the spaceborne military. Sergeants tend all other enlisted men below them and are responsible for the tactical execution of orders given by officers. They usually lead squadrons of enlisted men.
The Sergeant Commander – There is only ever one sergeant commander, and he is responsible for every sergeant in the force.
Vice Marshal – The commissioned rank above commodore. Vice marshals regularly command task forces of all sizes or small fleets.
Warrant Officer – While technically a commissioned officer, warrant officers exist outside the normal chain of command. They technically are lower than other officers and above enlisted men, but because of their extreme specialization, offers generally defer to their warrant officers.