When is a starport not


Cosmic Mongoose
I was doing a lot of back and forth thinking about starports with the Asteroid Mining and Ships at the Dawn of Jump threads in my head. Made me think what it takes to put together a port and build it up over time. I ruminated through Pocket Empire to understand starport construction time and costs as well as Tech level advancement. A couple things struck me. How do lower level worlds build and launch starships when they have the tech level without building a full blown class A Starport? At tech level 8 or the beginning of TL 9, when you're building your first craft, you more than like haven't automatically set up a massive shipyard/port authority.

Not gaming at the game store today, I used the facilities to quietly read HG2e Starport section thoroughly. They lay out what makes a starport a starport. It says having all the elements doesn't mean it is a starport. A space station is possible with many elements but not fulfilling all the qualifications and not be a starport. If all a planet has is a ground based shipyard center that can build jump capable ships, it shouldn't really be listed on the UWP as a starport. Kennedy Space center is a launch facility while construction of current ships, which should be considered a Class B starport ability, are built at other centers and manufacture of materials and components are all over. Even landing a spacecraft is scattered. Not even really a Class D by definition. It seems ridiculous a planet at TL 8+ shouldn't have at least the beginning of manufacture, launch and recovery. The advent of maneuver drives should make it very possible even for only ground based resources.

I started building a space station which would have shipyard capability then thought why must it be a station. Put the shipyard on the ground and other elements tied to it that would be on a ship are there too. Just like airplanes, it will leave the factory then fly to an official space port which has the ability to prepare flights, launch and, because it's a VTOL vehicle, land the craft. This can be an extension of already building and using maneuver capable in-system craft. Supply, warehousing and fuel would be assumed on site or nearby. A port like this would probably cater to jump ships while small craft would have the services similar to truck stops rather than an airport.

Space stations would make more sense as a system develops interplanetary activities and has the resources to need a station saving time and money not dealing with the gravity well. Ships need not be built streamlined when travelling between orbital ports. Streamlining would be very common though as colony worlds wouldn't have the ability to build them for a long time.

I hope this is a good explanation for how worlds can build their own jump and non-jump capable ships without having a classification for it. I'm not trying to 'play the system' but it made no sense worlds must an A or B class base when they have the tech level.

Also, what are your thoughts about shipping space stations to a system unable to build one. I can see the station being essentially modular for transport then reassembled at the destination. Dispersed structure fits nicely. The station can be missioned based, a refueling only station with a refinery, fuel storage and docking for fuel shuttles and/or it could be an early destination point for supply ships with warehouse holds and a hangar for an interface cargo shuttle. It can be a core that grows over time as new functions for a planet call for it. I can see either very large freighters or jump modules that attach, drop off and return.
The rules on pg 62 for what makes a space station a recognized starport acknowledge that the definition is fluid. When you think about it, the logistics of a starport in terms of services they offer interstellar trade have no relation to whether or not the station can actually make a ship.

The 100 000 tons of docking space shows the station can handle large tonnage of traffic. The 2500 tons per day of fuel means the station could supply 12000 tons of shipping at Jump 2, plus supply a lot of fuel for local use. This makes sense for a starport tied to interstellar trade.

Having about 2000 people living at the station means there are plenty of people to supply services to the ships passing through, or for any processing operations on station.

When you think of it the ability to make a ship has nothing to do with providing services to ships, aside form having the technical capacity to repair them. Spare parts can be brought to the station, so having a shipyard on station is not really needed. The construction facilities could be on planet.

As soon as M-Drive is available at TL 9 a planet can begin rapid exploitation of the resources of the system. This allows gas giant for fuel skimming, asteroid processing etc.
Here's a concept. We're used to the OTU canon that empires control (and possibly build) all the starports, Highport or Downport on worlds within its borders. Could or would planets build their own ground or orbital facilities to make and launch their own craft? When a world 'discovers' the physics and mechanics of spacecraft then starships and wanted to independently go to the stars by their own mean, can they? Would Travellers find an official Imperial port in one place and one or more local sites catering to the planet's needs?
This seems quite reasonable.

Does the Starport rating refer to what facilities are present on a world, or simply what is available to ships that stop by? The system might well have shipyards capable of producing lots of ships, but not have facilities for visiting ships, or repair/construction for anyone but local needs. Even on a high-pop, high-tech world, seems like they could build shipyards that aren't under Imperial control, and don't service visiting vessels. Maybe not just the local navy, but local shipping companies as well. What about private shipyards built and controlled by corporations?
I just re-read the Core book entry on starports. (pg 225) and that got me more confused now than before.
Starports are Imperial territory where Imperial law holds.
"Technically, a starport is Imperial territory and not
under the jurisdiction of the planetary government. The
local government may share in the construction costs,
running costs and profits of the starport, but the port
is extraterritorial and run by an Imperium-appointed

So who collects the taxes from the trade? And who gets the money from the fuel sales? (1st edition Merchant Prince for the trade taxation reference). Does the Starport collect money and pass it on to the locals? If the planet is balkanized, who gets the cash? the local U.N equivalent? or the owner of the land where the Downport is?

Can local governments make their own stations for mineral exploitation and then sell services to ships and act as competition to the Imperial government?

When is a space station not under Imperial control? When it is just a refinery or smelter operation?

And to bring things into the Trojan Reach and Pirates of Drinax. GeDeCo is building stations. The Reach is not under Imperial control, so who controls them, and who gets the income? (I am thinking GeDeCo, with a cut to the local ruler). Imperial Law is not likely to be a factor out beyond Imperial Space, despite the occasional task force passing through.

Could there be a growing number of balkanized efforts to build their own space based resource extraction points, and offer fuel sales to passing ships. Dropping into local space from Jump a Traveller could be bombarded with offers of lower berthing costs and extra services for their ships, as opposed to going to the Imperial station, or the GeDeCO version if not in Imperial space. Inside the Imperium, would the Imperium allow the competition?

At the start of the Drinax campaign my players were discussing how to make some extra money to buy equipment for the ship. Getting into the refined fuel trade was discussed. They had a couple of processors, each capable of generating 10 000 credits a day in finished fuel. Players look at the tech available and the income it can create.
Are you starting to see why there is a lot more conflict inherent in the 3I than at first sight, especially on the frontier where the Imperium is too far away to directly rule?

Starports are Imperial installations, except when they are not. A world government could build its own port facilities for insystem ships, and even have shipyards capable of constructing ships for its planetary navy.

What the Imperium insists on though is:

all interstellar trade goes through the Imperial starport - a low ranking Imperial noble is governor of this fief and collects all duties and taxes owed to the Imperium to be transferred to the subsector duke, less his/her cut

only Imperial starports can construct, certify and maintain civilian shipping - usually involving megacorp franchises but it could be local shipyards providing the locals pay their dues to the Imperium

megacorps get first refusal on starport suport service contracts eg fuel refinaries, life support replenishment, spacer entertainment and the like.

Think of Imperial trade as a protection racket and Imperial nobles like a hierarchy of mob bosses and you get an idea why the Ine Givar are the good guys...
Shades of 21st century Earth! Foreign companies walk into a third world country, cozy up to the fewest people in charge handing fistfuls of 'compensation' then set up shop wherever they want and dictate terms how the business will operate without interference. Locals might get some low paid jobs for public relations.

I remember a long time back there was a background as to what Traveller is and one thing that stood out was Traveller is not the Prime Directive. Business is big business and no one is protected from traders and corporations unless you have the big guns to fight back which we normally refer to as Another Empire. Traveller Keeps It Simple by having a benevolent government overseeing trade everywhere so players cam gallivant around without carrying universal coinage, assured stable goods and services, having to determine what ports they can use safely and so on. What make the game exciting is not every sector's ports are well funded, well staffed or free from corruption.

One thing I imagine is worlds with the technology but don't have a 'proper' starport could have a proper independent operation. Starports are part of an immense standardized trade network that really is a separate entity from any local concern much like FedEx and local mom and pops with a small fleet of cars or trucks serving locally or maybe regionally. Just as M&Ps will also use FedEx services, a world can do independent trade and services over short interstellar distances but depend on the starport for more extensive service.

I believe it was World Builder's Handbook that had you generating a main starport on a world then creating loads of other ports all over the planet. What if those also represent the system's personal ship operations and construction especially if the Imperial port is only a D or C?
I don't recall which book first proposed it, but within ImperiumSpace you can set up spaceports; probably it scales alphabetically as to facilities and services available.


Self service?


Starports are an Imperium run stations with requisite extraterritoriality.
GeDeCo is technically an Imperium company so maybe their ability to build space ports is done with Imperium authority, with the I3 taking a little cash off the top as taxes. The patron plot for Number One is for the PC to establish a ew spaceport so one dome doesn’t hold the monopoly. This one would not be I3 so maybe some Manet would do this too, especially in the border worlds.
By PCs 'establishing a new space port", you mean a Class E? A shack with a nearby beacon tower overlooking a bulldozed landing area for maybe a 1000 ton ship surrounded by a chain link fence. A piece of scrap paper taped to the door saying "Be back in five minutes.". One to three people run the place, usually. And the PCs must make sure no one claim jumps it.

I smell a Tales of the Golden Monkey adventure!
I think the patron requires so many Mcr to put into it to make the place a haven so I’m guessing there must be at least some level of structure to it rather than just a flat landing spot b
Within the Imperium, a starport is a system's primary port of entry, governed by the Imperial Starport Authority (or a local affiliate), with extraterritoriality. All other ports (if any) that serve spacecraft are spaceports, and operate under local rule.

A large, high population asteroid belt main-world might have hundreds or thousands of spaceports, because every populated world needs one. See the world book about Glisten for an example.

Outside the Imperium, a starport is still the term used for the primary port of entry. But details about management and law depend on the polity.

Can private entities build and operate a spaceport? That's up to the world (or national) government, and possibly also restricted by any interstellar polity with jurisdiction.
Reynard said:
Also, what are your thoughts about shipping space stations to a system unable to build one. I can see the station being essentially modular for transport then reassembled at the destination. Dispersed structure fits nicely. The station can be missioned based, a refueling only station with a refinery, fuel storage and docking for fuel shuttles and/or it could be an early destination point for supply ships with warehouse holds and a hangar for an interface cargo shuttle. It can be a core that grows over time as new functions for a planet call for it. I can see either very large freighters or jump modules that attach, drop off and return.

I’ve built my current campaign around that thought. A small orbital station built with modules just small enough to be shipped by subsidized merchant vessels and assembled in orbit. Not a starport, but modules could be added to expand its capabilities a bit. It’s meant more to supplement a larger groundport. To build a true orbital starport you’d need much larger modules.
Seems like a question of semantics to me. Do 'starports' service star ships and space shios, while 'space ports' only service local non-jump capable shios? Does size matter? (Of course it does!!!!!).

Basically a starports is going to be any port that services starships, and space ships. Spaceport's are going to be more about serving local traffic. Put it this way, the Port of Houston services ocean going ships and also handles local barge traffic for the intercoastal waterway. There are numerous private docks along the same waterway that handle smaller boats. And there are private docks at some of the refineries that handle local barges and a few that are big enough to handle ocean going ships that dock only to pick up product from that refinery.

Major airports are the same. Small private craft including a sing engine 4 passenger Cessna can land at a major airport like DFW alongside Airbus 380s. But most small private traffic stick to smaller airports for cost and operations.

In the above instances there are many crossover concepts, but the idea kinda stays true. The major facilities are considered 'ports', while the smaller facilities are not, or at least not in the same way. For star ports I think the idea remains the same. Scale doesn't matter so much as the intent and operation. In a small country the major port might be considered tiny elsewhere, but for that country it serves the same function.

Ownership, operations, extra-territoriality would have to be separate discussion threads since they can easily be major topics of their own. As far as ge-do-co goes, it's simply a company operating on multiple planets and it's authority is whatever the planet offers them, whatever they can get away with, or whatever force gives them. Whether or not it's rights would be backed up by Imperial might is not known. A significant amount of credits in the right persons acounts might justify an Imperial squadrons visit to a planet to remind them just how much influence they have. Then again if they have to fight, the Imperium might just say 'nah, you didn't pay for damage or ammo, just a flyby'. Such operations are best left up to the game master.
There is a difference between having star port facilities and being registered as a star port, which comes down to the politics.

With 2nd ed the Imperials control the Highports and not necessarily star ports.
Larger planets or those that have a role in hub and spoke trade will have multiple high ports. There is one official imperial owned and controlled starport, but it's not the only one.

And this is where the explanations start to break down. From a gaming perspective it makes sense to centralize things in a system(actually a planet because the system doesn't really do much for the rest of a planetary system). However reality and common sense tells us that this isn't the case. So it's up to GM''s to handle the rest. I've seen some that consider the starport just a gateway and do nothing with it while others try to incorporate it into their adventures.
For larger planets / systems I tend to think in terms of a Starport Authority than a single port. If the system government is unified they’d likely impose some level of coordination and traffic control.
Which brings up a good point. For Traveller the rule is planetary authority ends at 100 diameters. And multi system entities are forbidden. So its possible to have both balkanized planets and balkanized systems with stations and planets and moons of different governments. All of whom may cooperate or not. And there may only be the single Imperial starport out there in the system.
A "starport" doesn't have to be a single facility. With a highport and downport, a starport is already two facilities. There's no reason that a starport couldn't consist of a highport made of several space stations, and a downport that consisted of space facilities in several cities. If they're operated by the Imperial Starport Authority, or a comparable non-Imperial authority, they're a starport; otherwise they're spaceports.