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Prior to the 26th Century, human ships did not possess artificial gravity systems and instead relied on rotating sections of the hull to provide centrifugal force on the interior of the hull to allow comfortable movement in "gravity." Carriers were able to adjust the rate of rotation, allowing more or less gravity, and a number of other ship classes, such as Halcyon-class light cruiser's, also used rotating sections before the introduction of gravity plating, which was still not in common usage in 2525.
Although the UNSC experimented with true artificial gravity and antigravity prior to First Contact, most attempts were unsuccessful, or produced mixed results. They generated an artificial gravity/antigravity field, but they must not have been practical for unknown reasons. At least some of this technology passed into Insurrectionist possession, such as the devices used to restrain the Spartans.
After contact with the Covenant, however, reverse-engineering Covenant technology allowed the UNSC to employ artificial gravity on most of its ships.
UNSC starships' current form of antigravity allows them to hover in planetary atmosphere without rocket propulsion being directed below.
Almost all Covenant vessels employ some sort of artificial gravity mechanism that does not involve rotating hull sections or acceleration. Instead, their method allows for the generation of actual gravity.
- Descriptions in Halo: Contact Harvest (set at the time of Covenant first contact) suggest that some form of gravity was in play aboard the vessels. Since the antigrav plate had a crushing or repulsive effect, and it was described as generating a beam, may have generated directed antigravitons.