According to Gary the numbers in the Revenge of the Sith ICS
do not actually mean what they say….
As the person who wrote Jedi Counseling 94, I can shed some light on the subject. First, I had to make different sources on fuels and consumption rates match up. Star Wars Adventure Journal #5 first introduced the concept of a fuel cell (specifically, the Imperial Mark IV Fuel Cell) along with what 1 fuel cell could do, how many a tramp freighter (in this case, a YT-1300) would hold, and how much they cost to replace (50 credits). Second, the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook (and Revised Core Rulebook) both establish that 1 kg of fuel costs 50 credits. Given this, and starting with the assumption that the fuel in the Core Rulebook is the same as the fuel in fuel cells, it was possible to calculate that a fuel cell holds 1 kg of fuel. After that, I worked from the assumption that for every increase in size category, a ship uses 10 times as much fuel. (A size category is approximately doubled in all dimensions, sometimes a bit more, so it averages out to about a tenfold increase in mass.) From this, and using the rules established in Adventure Journal #6, it was possible to calculate that a Venator would hold 736 fuel cells, a total weight of 73,600 metric tons of fuel.
However, I was keenly aware of the numbers in ROTS:ICS (I'd referenced them extensively when writing the Revenge of the Sith Collection for the Wizards of the Coast website), and I was also aware that the mass annihilation Saxton lists was derived assuming that relatively normal real-world physics were at work (e.g. calculating energy based on the luminance and size of engines, assuming that thrust was emitted at near the speed of light, etc.) -- and, more importantly, his numbers absolutely would not work if they represented "real" weights. (Even assuming that peak power consumption is 24 times faster than normal, meaning it would only have to last 736 hours, it would require fuel stores of 1.06x10^11 metic tons -- that is far too much because the thrust Saxton calculated as being required would no longer be enough to move the ship while it carried that fuel.)
Thus, I concluded that the masses listed in ROTS:ICS were "virtual" mass. Here's how it works (and it's essentially based on the same technology as inertial compensators): The sublight drives on starships (e.g. H-K ion engines, etc.) produce a limited warping of the space-time continuum that makes the starship's mass relative to the rest of the universe much lower than it "really" is; by doing so, the motive thrust provided by a given mass of reaction mass accelerated to a given velocity is multiplied, thereby making absurdly high accelerations (thousands of Gs) over extended periods possible without carrying insane amounts of reaction mass. In this case, the "relative mass gradient" works out to 1.44x10^6-to-1. (As a comparison, this relative mass gradient would allow the real-world space shuttle to reach orbit using about 2.6 pounds of fuel.) So, in conclusion, it's not hypermatter itself at work here -- it's just the complex inner workings of sublight engines themselves that make the relative masses of the ship much lower than that of the reaction mass, and this virtual mass is reported in ROTS:ICS because that's what would traditionally be used for calculating things like specific impulse and so forth.
(Also, in addition to my word as the Jedi Counselor, this is the reasoning I put in comments on the column when it was sent to Leeland and company for approval -- given that they approved it for publication, I'm assuming they agreed that my behind-the-scenes explanation was a reasonable way to justify the two radically different numbers as well as a way to explain the incredibly large numbers in ROTS:ICS.) -- Gary M. Sarli (Jedi Counselor) 00:09, 1 January 2007 (UTC)
Star Wars now has Warp Drive...