STARPORTS AND SPACEPORTS
By convention, a world has only one starport but can
have many spaceports. The designation "starport" is
given to the world’s main port, where most commercial
and passenger traffic goes. Any other port is designated
a spaceport. This can cause problems on balkanised
worlds where several governments exist; most will claim
that their port is the main one.
Usually, but not always, the starport is the best port on
the planet and others will be inferior. Normally, there
will be a main port accompanied by a startown, which
is often the planetary capital. The startown is usually
geared to offworld visitors and doing business with other
star systems, so may have more relaxed attitudes and
laws than other regions of the planet. This is not always
the case, however.
The Imperium considers a starport (but not usually a
spaceport) as Imperial territory, so Imperial law, and
not local law, applies there. In practice, there is often a
compromise, with shared jurisdiction. Law Levels vary
but a typical well-regulated starport tends to restrict
visitors to sidearms – this may be more or less than
people are permitted to own or carry outside the port.
The startown is planetary territory, not part of the port,
and theoretically local law applies there. However, the
startown is often a buffer zone between world and port
and if there are radical differences in Law Level then
sometimes the startown has a special set of laws in
place within its limits.
The planetside part of a starport or spaceport is termed
the downport, although there may also be an orbital
component termed the highport. In some cases, this is
big enough to be a city in space and there may be no
need to descend to the planet at all if business can be
conducted in orbit.
An important system might have a large highport
serving a downport at the capital. Large ships dock at
the highport and use shuttles for passenger and cargo
transport; smaller vessels can land if they choose. From
the orbital highport, it is possible to go to the main
downport or spaceports in each of half a dozen cities,
plus a commercial port serving an industrial complex.
Meanwhile there may be a dedicated military port,
a small government port and a couple of spaceports
serving installations on other bodies in the system, such
as a mining colony on a moon of one of the gas giants.
A minor system, on the other hand, may have little more
than a shed and a marked landing area.