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I have a fictional technology in my world that involves being able to create "tubes of compressed space" -- essentially, you have two stations and a (straight or curved) line of space between them that take much less time to traverse in distance.

I'm interested in figuring out how to integrate this technology with interplanetary (and inter-space-station) transit, since it would still take lots of effort to create the necessary delta-V to navigate orbits and such.

Assume that the "compression-tube" technology is only outright fictional technology required, though they have better technology than 2015 in many respects, like far more advanced computer systems.

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    $\begingroup$ How does the tube work? Can both ends orbit a star at different rates? What happens if I move one end to either side of a planet? $\endgroup$ – ckersch Feb 16 '15 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ The tube is powered by some unusual type of exotic matter; the tube is created when you apply electricity to the matter. Yes, they can orbit at different rates. If you move it to one side of a planet, it would damage the planet. But the tube is relatively small compared to a planet, so don't expect to go around punching giant holes in planets. $\endgroup$ – user6383 Feb 16 '15 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ What happens to a ship, velocity-wise, when it goes through the tube? If I, for example, drop a ship in at the orbit of pluto and it comes out at the orbit of Earth, will it pick up all of that extra potential energy as kinetic energy and come rocketing out the Earth-side end? $\endgroup$ – ckersch Feb 16 '15 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ It travels like normal, it just behaves as if it traversed a shorter distance than "really" occurred. $\endgroup$ – user6383 Feb 16 '15 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ This question reminds me of "A Wrinkle in Time" a book I have not read for a long long time. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Wrinkle_in_Time $\endgroup$ – James Feb 20 '15 at 14:38
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Here's a starting point: the Interplanetary Transport Network (ITN):

ITN Artistically gratuitous representation. Not to be taken literally. The green swoops are odd and potentially unimportant.

The ITN is a series of "pathways" throughout the solar system emanating from and disappearing into the Lagrange points of various two-body systems. It just so happens that certain trajectories take very little fuel, if you're up for traveling to certain locations. It's fast, easy, and takes very little energy from the spacecraft travelling through it.

Sounds kind of like your idea, doesn't it? And it is. So your idea is plausible, and can be implemented by simply changing some parts of the ITN. I'm not sure how to work in the electricity-creating-tubes ideas, but you could use magnetic fields to influence the path of the spacecraft. Okay, these will have to be really strong, and they would have to be in lots of places, but they could modify the ITN by maneuvering the spacecraft in different ways.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you misunderstand; the tubes compress space when electricity is applied to a type of special matter. But, yes, this looks very useful. $\endgroup$ – user6383 Feb 17 '15 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ @cntrational Ah, so they have to actually compress space? I certainly misunderstood; I thought they simply had to be used in the process. My mistake. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Feb 17 '15 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ In fact, thinking about it, this is what I want -- they'd just create tubes of compression along the ITN to reduce its travel time. Excellent. $\endgroup$ – user6383 Feb 17 '15 at 0:58
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Depending on whether the tubes are easy to create or not, two planets could be linked in a number of ways.

Direct Link:

With a direct link, the tube would have orbiting endpoints that move with the planets as they follow their orbits.

The advantage is that you would always have a link. The issue with this approach, is that an object passing in between the planets may cause unforeseen problems ( such as collapsing the tube ), unless the "tube" were small enough that it would be difficult to hit at all. In addition to that, you would have to do some heavy duty calculations to simulate the tube's stability while mobile.

Static Link Net:

This method would require several static (non-moving) "tubes" to be constructed at various points throughout the two planet's orbits. The advantage of this method is that you wouldn't have to worry about calculating gravitational effects, or the effects of moving the tube.

The disadvantage would be that you would have to wait for a window, much like shuttle launches today.

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