At Spin Two Swords
Moving Through Space, A Beginner's Guide
Spacers move through space towards destinations as part of their jobs. They are, generally, not all out there on a pleasure cruise. They want to be on their way and they want to be on their way with a minimum of hassle.
The possibilities for hassle are, however, many. Spacers out to sabotage other spacers. Pirates. Angry aliens. The Grand Interstellar Fleet of the Imperium. The face of Bo. Whatever. No one wants to be stopped or be attacked out there. They want to move this shipment of Dillithium crystals to Arknow 3.
What’s a spacer to do?
First of all, 99% of what keeps spacers safe is the great anonymity of empty space, sometimes known as the Great Big Empty. There’s a lot of nothing out there and that means there’s a lot of nothing for people to search to find one relatively tiny speck of something. Sure, the main planets are populous and their skies are full, but out past them? Out past the point where the system’s star is only slightly larger than the other stars, you could look for a ship for years and not find it. At that point, it’s a lot easier to avoid people as an encounter will be little more than blind stupid luck (or unluck as the case may be). Thus, the real question of what spacers do when they meet other spacers, is actually a question of what spacers do that 1% of the time when they encounter things in space.
Spacer etiquette is that the ship coming from the habitable planet will relate an identification call followed by basic news of the day for ships out in the dark, the other will relate their call and news from the way out (if there is any such news), then both ships will roll around each other at the limit of clear comms range. After that, they disappear into the void. Adherence to this tradition has a lot to do with range from the main planet, system defense boats, etcetera.
Running into non-spacer space encounters can vary quite a bit in etiquette, but generally, the trading of identification is important and first. Fleet will probably do a check on the boat’s info and, if everything is okay, send the boat on its way. This process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours. Local law enforcement may be better or worse.
Some ships take all this even further. They run silent so as to avoid the hassle of having to talk to anyone. They run relays through system boats and drones ahead of them so as to find or avoid ships, they drop off radar buoys as they move through the system. In short, they do all manner of things to find or avoid other ships. Mostly, however, the size of the sky is the largest factor of whether or not two ships find each other.