Adventure in the Spinward Marches
Starports and Spaceports
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 Balkanized 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 of inferior types. 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, and may have more relaxed attitudes or even laws than other regions of the planet. This is not always the case however.
The Imperium considers that a Starport (but not usually a Spaceport) is Imperial territory, so that Imperial law and not local law applies there. In practice there is often a compromise in place, with shared jurisdiction in terms of law enforcement. Law levels vary from place to place, but the 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 groundside part of a starport or spaceport is termed the ‘Downport’. There may also be an orbital component termed the Highport. In some cases this is big enough to be a city in space, in which case there may be no need to go groundside at all if business can be conducted in orbit.
As an example, an important system might have a large Highport serving a Downport at the capital. Big 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 to Spaceports in each of half a dozen cities, plus a commercial port serving an industrial complex somewhere.
Meanwhile there is a dedicated military port, a small government port and a couple of spaceports serving small installations on other bodies in the system,for example 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.
A starport may be located in orbit above a world. If so, it is most
frequently referred to by the world name followed by Highport. Thus, Sylea
Highport is the main orbital starport for Sylea. A highport maintains scheduled
links by shuttle with the world surface (if there is no surface starport, then with
an air transport hub).
Why a highport? Many very large ships never land on a world surface; the
cargo they carry is off-loaded in orbit and shuttled down. Some worlds are
naturally inhospitable (bad surface weather, a water world, fluid oceans, or
perhaps government type D or E) and ship owners prefer not to risk their
equipment venturing down to the surface. Class A and B starports for worlds with
Atmosphere 2+ generally have a Highport. Class A, B, or C starports at worlds
with Atmosphere B+, or Hydrographics A, or Government D or E can b expected
to have a Highport. With credits burning a hole in your pockets and time