There are three potential ways to travel between locations within a system. These are via Combat and Flight Modes, or by using your ship’s SPEC drive. Attempting to travel between locations under the normal modes would require an exceedingly large amount of time; therefore, for fast insystem travel between planets, asteroids and artificial satellites you should use your SPEC drive.
The SPEC Drive
The SPEC drive (Spatial Partitioned Expansion Contraction) and its alien equivalents warp space around the vessel in such a way that the vessel moves at normal speed though compressed space, generating an effective movement rate magnitudes higher than Flight Mode.
The degree of spatial compression (and therefore the drive's effectiveness) is limited by the proximity of any nearby gravity wells (suns, planets or even stations). So, the nearer a gravity-well, the lower the magnitude of movement over normal velocity. You may have heard a metaphor for gravity that states "space is a big soft bed, planets are bowling balls, and smaller balls roll towards the indentations." Well, in SPEC travel, the planets are more like big hills that get steeper the closer you get to them.
The energy costs for using the SPEC drive are much higher than jumping. As such, SPEC drives are used for interstellar travel only when exploring outside the jump network or when launching a military expedition (as going through the "front door" (e.g. the jump network) is ill advised). All spaceworthy ships are fitted with a SPEC drive for insystem travel.
To use SPEC, make sure that your direction vector and your velocity vector are both aligned on your target. This means that you must point your ship at your destination and actually travel in the direction you are pointing. To activate, press . A blue SPEC indicator light will appear on your HUD, and your velocity will increase. On final approach to your destination, press the same key again to deactivate the drive and return to your previous flight control. Please also note that your weapon systems are disabled while the SPEC drive is activated, to avoid collision with your own weaponry.
Starting with the 0.5.0 Beta core game, the HUD indicator is a round light with an S in it and a SPEC Drive autopilot will navigate you to your selected target destination. The autopilot will even take care of using the most efficient normal space flight to get to where the SPEC drive can be engaged and navigate around obstructions, like planets, where the SPEC drive is slowed down. When in normal space flight the SPEC Drive light may not be on during autopilot navigation since the actual SPEC drive is not engaged. However, at the final target destination you must toggle the SPEC Drive autopilot system off with even though the SPEC Drive light shuts off completely (at least in the 0.5.0 Beta). Otherwise, normal space flight controls may be locked for an indeterminate period of time.
Vega Strike has access to an alternative insystem function (not used in the core game, but available for mods) called Autopilot. Autopilot shortens the transition time between two areas of interest where there are no identifiable hazards nearby, such as the presence of enemies and obstacles (asteroid fields).
Where autopilot is available, the AUTOPILOT light in the cockpit activates. To use it, however, a player must first select a destination. Use the targeting keys or map screen to browse through the available nav points and select a destination. Once a destination has been chosen, hitting activates autopilot. Your cockpit viewpoint is replaced by a camera view panning around your ship, reverting back to normal on arrival at your destination. Generally speaking, autopilot delivers a player within 15,000 meters of their destination, at which point the player must manually fly the remaining distance.
Pressing multiple times with the same target merely re-centers that target and will not transition any closer than 15,000 meters.
The autopilot light will be off as a result of the following:
- The player is within 15,000 meters of a destination;
- A potentially hostile target (use to browse units targeting you) is nearby; or
- The player is near or within a hazard (use to browse for hazards).
If none of these scenarios applies, it may be that a hostile just died and your sensors are verifying the debris is inactive - wait around 10-20 seconds for the autopilot light to appear.