Space ships



galaxy vehicle, cosmic motors, Extraterrestrial Vehicles, Future Technology, Futuristic Concept, Futuristic design

Daniel Simon has some great designs to his name, and his designs for “Cosmic Motors” are probably the best. Simon has designed cars for Volkswagen and Bugatti, and he has an entire collection of designs of futuristic vehicles sold in another galaxy by the fictional Cosmic Motors. And he has a book to go with it, one that details the founding of Cosmic Motors in 8966.
Space Station, Gallagher Space Center, Concept space station, André Dettler
Let’s take a break from the mundane design concepts and do some space exploration. Well, I am talking about the concept space station designed by André Dettler. This concept was a submission for the “Design the Future” contest, which was presented by Solidworks and NASA. The Gallagher Space Center has been conceptualized with an intention for long term space habitation for workers. The spherical design of the space station is composed of different modules and the outer perimeter blocks harmful radiation from the sun while constantly converting solar energy. The modules can be rearranged for specific purposes such as research work and personal care. Moreover, the spherical shape allows the inhabitants to look out of the windows and clearly observe the surroundings. This visual communication benefits people psychologically for long term habitation, which is the prime focus of this project.
Skylon Spaceplane
Whenever we think of space endeavors, organizations such as NASA, European Space Agency or even ISRO crop up in our heads. But a private British aerospace company – Reaction Engines Limited (REL) is all set to rather develop a more inclusive system of space traveling, with their Skylon spaceplane concept.

NASA Moonstream, Anthony Sims

The NASA Moonstream concept is a design proposal for a future moon exploration vehicle. The NASA sponsored project called for a conceptual lunar rover for the year 2020. The Moonstream was created by Anthony Sims, an Art Center College of Design student.

NASA Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle
NASA is working on a new deep space vehicle that will take astronauts farther into space than ever before — first to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.

The spaceship is called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and is based on the design of Orion spacecraft, created for the Constellation program.
SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket
SpaceX promised something big, and it’s now delivered. The company today revealed its plans for the Falcon Heavy, which promises to be the “world’s most powerful rocket.” Just how powerful is that? SpaceX says the 22-story rocket will be able to carry satellites or spacecraft weighing over 53 metric tons (or 117,000 pounds) into low earth orbit, which is nearly twice what the Space Shuttle is able to carry. What’s more, this isn’t just a far off promise. SpaceX says the rocket will be “ready” sometime next year, and the first test flight is planned for 2013. The rocket’s sheer size isn’t it’s only selling point, though — it also promises to drastically reduce the cost of sending things into space, with each launch expected to cost “only” $100 million. Head on past the break for a taste of what’s in store.

NASA Spaceship X-34
The space plane was a project that NASA didn’t put too much effort into because at that time it was realized that expendable machines were much cheaper to build and maintain. But things apparently will go in a different direction because they just announced the X-34 a model that manufacturers hope will return safe to Earth once the outer space mission will end.

It was designed at Orbital Sciences and it was presented to the public back in 1999. At that time its mission was simple: launch into orbit, release some devices and turn back home safe. But in 2001 after some comprehensive analysis they realized that the project will be too expensive to build.
Water-Powered Spaceship
They say water is a universal solvent and has a capacity to mix with just anything. But it also has immense energy in the form of steam to move or push things. The water-driven and water-centric space coach concept vehicle will use this property of water to change the way one travels in space. It comes attached with electro-thermal engines that get powered by solar energy and further heat up water. Such engines are not only very resourceful but also are a great way to initiate low-thrust travel.
Space Cleanising Drive, Future Spaceship
Most of the times, all of us are so finicky about having any kind of debris around us. But, we quite often remain oblivious to the simple fact that there is a lot of debris in space as well. Yes, you read that correct, in space also. The debris may be of rocket parts, satellites, asteroids etc.
NASA, Solar Sails
NASA researches have forever been living in the skies above, forever dreaming about flying past stars and studying them. Well, the guys at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. Have spent their time building the NanoSail-D. This solar sail will help NASA understand just how practical it is to send a fragile spacecraft into space from a compact structure. Unlike the sails our boats have that need the wind to blow them across the oceans, solar sails require juice from the sun to power up vehicles in space. Built from lightweight materials, these huge sails continually capture photons; solar particles that help propel vehicles in space.
NASA, Solar-Powered Electric Rocket, spacecraft
We’ve seen them all go electric before, cars, bikes, buses and bicycles too. NASA has finally decided to work on an electric vehicle that will shoot through space now. The agency has currently set its mind on developing a prototype of a spacecraft that will be fitted with a solar array using an electric rocket to propel it forward. This one won’t show up in the skies anytime before 2014 though, and is designed to be an unmanned vehicle. The mission, labeled as the Solar Electric Propulsion mission, will have the spacecraft automatically maneuver and travel to a dead satellite and stop without running right through it. If all goes well, the spacecraft will then change course and make its way to an asteroid where it will use a bunch of tools in its study.
Space shuttle, Airbus, Honeymoon
After mesmerizing us with his ‘Flying Yacht’ and ‘Sailing aircraft’, here comes Yelken Octuri yet again. This time the air bus interior designer has come up with something that seems an inspiration from sci-fi fiction: the Honeymoon space shuttle concept. The concept has been designed for the people who want a Space Shuttle for a weightless honeymoon in space.
Spaceship, James Yarger, Ground to Orbit, Futuristic Aircraft
Applying modern materials and manufacturing methods to the antiquated 19th century technology of airships, designer James Yarger has developed an airship concept dubbed the “Ground to Orbit” (GTO) that makes use of lighter than air (LTA) gas for easy lift and better performance on stretched expeditions, while leaving about 80% less carbon footprint in comparison to any similar sized aircraft. Featuring a body finished in lightweight fabric/objects, the new airship doesn’t need a runway, which makes it a very practical means of delivery and pickup of cargo and passengers from remote locations around the world. Presenting an aerodynamic design to ensure better speed and performance, the GTO offers a safe and sustainable flight than any passenger jet.
Steve Fossett, Deep Flight Challenger, Spacecraft, Airplane, Submarine
Steve Fossett has passed away but his dream survived in the hands of his friend Graham Hawkes who recently completed the mammoth task that Steve had started but unfortunately could not complete. Steve was working to create a machine that would fly as well as dive- a flying submersible!
The deisgn was supposed to reach a depth of some 36,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Graham Hawkes has created history by completing “Deep Flight Challenger”, which is a 3-in-1 mix of a spacecraft, an airplane and a submarine.
Space Tourism, Future Spaceship
For the adventurous journeys beyond the blue sky, there is a stiff competition going on between the space tourism companies. While the well-heeled have already spent a whopping $200,000 per ticket for 2.5-hour flight aboard Sir Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo, other firms are also battling out to take you on an amazing journey to the edge of space as soon as possible. Now, a team of British rocketeers, Starchaser boss Steve Bennett and astronaut Matt Shrewbridge, plan to take you into the space by 2015.
Aurora Spacelines, Future Spaceship
Exploring space travel with a laser technology, a student group at the Umea Insitute of Design have created a fictive space liner called Aurora Spacelines for top dog honchos who think that time is money. Planned for a space business travel age, the Aurora has been envisioned to take the big guns on a whirlwind ride halfway across the globe in just 45 minutes! To facilitate that fast and brief ride, designers Niklas Palm, Metin Kaplan and Tae-Yeol Lim used laser technology invented by Dr Leik Myrabo at LightcraftTechnologies Inc.
CSS, Commercial Space Station
Recently, Orbital Technologies and Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) announced that they will launch the world’s First Commercial Space Station (CSS). I guess somewhere near the future, space tourism is going to be the next big thing. The station will be utilized by private citizens, professional crews, and corporate researchers interested in conducting their scientific programs. If everything goes well, CSS will be the world’s first commercially available human spaceflight platform.
ATHLETE, NASA, Future Vehicle, Robot
This is something big from NASA, really big. Engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are putting this All-Terrain, Hex-Limbed, Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) under a series of long-drive tests on long dirt roads. ATHLETE is a half-scale working prototype of NASA’s actual robot under development to transport habitats and other cargo on the surface of the Moon or Mars.
Ad Astra, ion engine, NASA, Plasma, Rocket, Space Travel, VASIMR
Recently, as the world celebrated the first lunar landing, Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins both called for NASA to make Mars its next goal. But the chemical propulsion system that took them to the moon would take six months, at least, to get a man to Mars and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. However, a new ion plasma rocket being developed by another former astronaut, Franklin Chang-Diaz, could potentially reach Mars in just 39 days using a fraction of the fuel.
Astronomy, Consumption, Femtosecond, Spacecraft, Telescope, Universe, X-ray
Theoretical work commissioned to the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) by the European Space Agency has recently concluded that lasers capable of generating extremely short pulses — known as “femtosecond comb lasers” — could be of great help in measuring the distance between two or more spacecraft to an accuracy of just a few microns, an essential component to formation flying space missions scheduled for the next decades.


These are characterized by having a relatively short endurance; unlike a 'real' spaceship, small craft don't independently travel long distances or stay in space for weeks on end. Consequently, small craft are almost always attached to a base of some sort. Furthermore, most don't have FTL, whether because it would be too expensive, a trip would take too long, or the engine would just be too big. In some settings, these small craft have the ability to travel and fight within atmospheres whereas larger ships do not (and are restricted to orbit).

Escape Pod

Not a craft in its own right, but a lifeboat in space. Despite the limited practicality these would have in reality (space is just too big and too empty), they're very common in science fiction works: when a larger ship is about to be destroyed, the crew will scramble for the escape pods, hoping to reach rescue or at least a Conveniently Close Planet. Generally these have only rudimentary engines and no weapons, but will carry some survival supplies. Can be used to create dramatic situations with stranded or adrift characters, or just to get civilians and redshirts out of the way so the main cast can save the day at the last possible moment.

Utility Pod

Very small space craft used for building and maintenance. Often spherical, barely fitting one or two people, with very thin walls, manipulator arms, some thrusters, and little else. It may not even have a built-in life support system, nor can it operate in an atmosphere or heavy gravity. They can be used to build space stations and ships, are almost always found at construction yards, and one or two could be attached to a ship for extravehicular transport / minor repair work. One common variant can transport personnel and small cargo from ship to ship. These lack any manipulators, and the most basic of these would just be a frame with thrusters. Occasionally, Utility Pods can be armed and armored for space combat, sort of a
Space Technical. Much like their ground counterparts however, these improvised Pods are ill suited against machines built for war.

Space Fighter

Basically a space jet fighter. Usually armed with a mix of a
Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon (so they can get into an Old School Dogfight) and missiles. Space Fighters typically battle each other in space, but depending on the distribution of firepower in the universe, may be capable of damaging or even destroying capital ships. The most common type of small craft to (possibly) have an FTL drive. The best ones are designed to be used in an atmosphere as well.
  • Bomber
    Heavy fighter-sized craft, armed with big missiles (commonly called
    Torpedoes) to damage or destroy capital ships. Often have one or more turrets for defensive weapons against fighters in addition to its offensive armament.
  • Interceptor
    Light, fast fighter whose primary purpose is to catch and destroy Bombers before they can strike the capital ships.
  • Stealth Fighter
    A stealth fighter, equipped with a cloaking device or such. They can also come in larger versions, depending on the setting.
  • Assault Fighter
    Glass Cannon fighter with lots and lots of guns.
  • Recon
    Trades weapons for sensors, stealth, and speed. Scouts ahead of primary fleet to gain last-minute intel on enemy positions.

Humongous Mecha

Many universes which feature these may use them instead of or in addition to conventional space fighters. Alternately, many have
Transforming Mecha that change into Fighters for space combat. In even rarer cases they can transform into capital ships, early idea came from a fan letter to animage asking if the oddly shaped mother ship, Whitebase, in Gundam can transform into a humongous mecha, and Macross followed suit.


Commonly used to transfer personne
l or material from one ship to another, or down to the surface of a planet. Usually lightly armed, although Combat/Assault shuttles that sacrifice their carrying capacity for guns are not unheard of. Civilians may own these for personal transport.
  • Drop Ship
    Specialized shuttle-like craft specifically made to carry troops from a ship to the surface, even into the middle of a battlefield or under fire. Always heavily armored, and usually armed to boot.
  • Drop Pod
    Instead of deploying infantry together in ships, transports will sometimes drop individual soldiers or
    Humongous Mecha in pods or very heavy armor.
    • Boarding Torpedo / Breaching Pod

    • Ship-to-ship torpedo/missile/pod that is used to deliver infantry by attaching or boring into the enemy hull.

These are full-fledged space ships; they have the endurance to go anywhere, but aren't powerful enough to be actual capital ships (military vessels may be referred to as "sub-capital" ships). The addition of stealth/cloaking capability to any of these turns them into the equivalent of submarines, allowing writers to recycle WW2-era destroyer vs. U-boat stories, regardless of the bad physics involved.

Patrol Boat / Scouts

Analogous to PT boats and gunboats, this craft are usually very small, fragile, and are used as police ships and/or for harassment. Not often a Hero's current ship, but often was his/her first command. Blurs the line between Bombers and Cutters - cheap enough to produce in numbers, and sometimes fast and agile enough to be be a threat.
  • Fast Attack Craft
    Variant of the Patrol Boat, FAC are heavily armed ships, often with anti-ship missiles or guns . They maintain the speed, agility, and low cost, but retains the fragility and lack of endurance. Because of their speed and weaponry, they can outmaneuver Capital Ships while posing a major threat. Then again, they're not likely to survive a direct hit from escort craft.


Various smaller warships, ranging from small assault boats slightly larger than a Bomber to massive ships nearly a mile in length. Which size class gets which name varies from universe to universe, but is usually in the size and name order given above. With the exception of those crewed by main characters, these are usually the equivalent to Red Shirts in the fleet when the shooting starts. Generally speaking, deployed in groups ("flotillas") or as escorts for larger ships. They're sometimes referred to (especially destroyers) as "Tin Cans" because of their thin hulls.
  • Cutters and Corvettes are small and cheap enough to be built by even the poorest of nations. Law enforcement, personnel transport, and guard duty was the Cutter's main role, since it didn't require a large crew to operate. However, small raids can be conducted with these ships. Corvettes are highly maneuverable but lightly protected, used mostly for protecting planets.
  • Destroyer originally came from "torpedo boat destroyer" and modern destroyers have evolved to take on anti-submarine, -missile and -aircraft duties; as such, authors who have Shown Their Work will portray destroyers as being point defense-heavy to defend capitals from small craft. However, less rigorous authors or franchises simply use it as a catchall for ships purpose built to eliminate other ships, which actually isn't too far from the role they serve in the modern day.
  • Frigates tend to the most heavily armed, and sometimes act independently for raiding, long-range patrol, bombardment, or scouting. Considering the size of some space empires, having a large number of these craft may be required to picket such vast distances.


Jack of All Stats of warships. Big enough to take care of themselves, fast enough to run from most anything that can squish it (which there are a lot, since a Cruiser often trades hull defense for firepower), and expendable enough that they don't require escorts. As such, they can operate independently from a fleet. Common variations include 'Heavy' and 'Light' Cruisers, where the Heavy is a bit larger, longer duration, and has slightly stronger firepower. The Light variant is less firepower and often smaller than standard, but useful in a scouting role. Worth noting that in Real Life, Cruisers have largely been supplanted by Destroyers for a variety of reasons, to include shifts in naval doctrine and linguistic drift.

Assault Carrier

The Assault Carrier is basically a smaller version of The Battlestar, only carrying a single squad or two of small craft. Many are capable of operating in the atmosphere, even (especially) if no other type of ship in the fleet can. These ships are usually considered their own autonomous units within the fleet, and commonly split off on separate missions (this makes them useful for the main cast of a series). The White Base of Mobile Suit Gundam is the Trope Maker here.
  • Escort/Light Carrier
    Typically around the same size as an assault carrier, but trades in most of the assault's guns for a larger fighter wing. An escort carrier rarely shows up on its own.

Space Freighter or Cargo Ship

Ship whose purpose is to ferry goods from one planet to the next. Usually lightly armed, if at all. Mostly a background ship.
  • Repurposed Freighter
    Basically a weaponized transport, given enough guns and defenses to attack other ships. A favorite of pirates, rebels, and desperate governments, these quasi-warships are relatively cheap and fast to produce. As these ships were not originally built for combat, they're less durable or capable than a conventional warship.

    In contrast to Q-ships, Repurposed craft do not hide the fact they are well armed. In fact, with the rapid modifications (added armor, engines, weapons, and sensors welded without regard to style) the refit may be very obvious. More so if in the hands or pirates / rebels, who love to decorate their craft.
  • Blockade Runner
    Smaller than most Cargo Ships, this is commonly used by smugglers and rebels, who soup up the engines and, if necessary, can give it extra guns and armor if it needs to fight. You're probably thinking of the Millennium Falcon (or the Serenity, or the Bebop) right now, and you'd be right on the money. This is the go-to ship class for the Space Western settings. May be piloted by a Space Trucker.
  • Q-ship
    Taking the idea of the Blockade Runner to an extreme, a Q-ship is a Cargo Ship that is retooled into a warship, but still retains the outward appearance of its original form, so the enemy doesn't realize that it's armed until it starts shooting them. These can be used to defend supply convoys alongside or in place of normal escorts, or to sneak a fighting unit past the eyes of the enemy until it's too late. Note that a Q-ship is now primarily a warship, not a cargo hauler, so a ship like the Millennium Falcon would not be an example, as it is a freighter, it just happens to be armed for bear. Basically, if it isn't designed to be mistaken for a normal cargo ship until the enemy is being blown to bits, it is not a Q-ship.
  • Tender
    Military use freighter that can be used to extend the range of a fleet by carrying extra supplies (ie, food, fuel, etc.) Obviously they won't always be seen, because a fleet will tend to try to operate within its normal range, but occasionally it may need to go beyond those limits, at which point a Tender becomes invaluable.


A specific cargo ship that carries large amounts of fuel and propellant. Unlike their wet-navy counterparts, space tankers carry fuel for fusion reactors and FTL drives, and have their own extraction and refining equipment. These ships are the life-blood of a Sci-Fi fleet, capable of keeping it running. And being so important, Tankers tend to be the first targeted for destruction. Being large, difficult to maneuver, and unarmed, they also make for easy targets.

Colony Ships

These generally aren't very well armed, even if only because they tend to be outdated more often than not. They carry everything you need for a colony: Equipment, construction materials, animal and plant specimens, living environs, and lots of colonists. Sometimes designed to become raw materials for the colony, especially in the slower-than-light models. Comes in Generation Ship, Human Popsicle Sleeper Ship, Terraforming seeder ship, and vanilla FTL colony ship flavors.

Repair Ship

Basically a mobile shipyard these carry large quantities of spare parts, raw materials to manufacture spare parts and trained personnel to handle the actual repairs. In some cases they may even be large enough to act as a dry dock for smaller space craft (Destroyer and Cruiser range). Similarly to the Tender the main purpose is to support a fleet away from its base by allowing for more intensive repairs to be done on the spot rather than requiring a ship to return to base and in extreme cases patching up a badly damaged ship enough for it to get back to base rather than having to be scuttled.


Not much more than a flying barracks, these will be seen in almost any invasion (unless the fleet uses Mashups instead). It will almost certainly carry shuttles, but it may additionally have the ability to actually land on a planet. In pressing times it may be forced to forgo the majority of its troops and be forced to operate as an impromptu Carrier. On occasions, technically a ship of one of the other classes fitted to accommodate a troop compartment. This is most likely the place you'll see a Space Marine steps out from.


An unarmed (usually), often spacious and pleasant civilian ship, designed to carry VIPs from A to B, in style and comfort. Usually these will have an escort.


This is for those VIPs who prefer speed to comfort and want to get from A to B pronto, hell or high water. It's more cramped and less pleasant, but much faster, usually the fastest type of ship available. It is probably also used by government/corporate/space knight/whatever troubleshooters on missions. For universes without FTL communications, Couriers are the fastest way to communicate between the stars.

The most powerful warships in a fleet; when people talk about fleet strength, counting capships is the quick and dirty way to do it. The presence of just one of these in an area can influence strategic calculations. These ships tend to be expensive to build. So expensive, in fact, that in "realistic" settings (well, the ones where space fleets function like WWII surface naval fleets anyway, which isn't actually realistic) they are almost never deployed without escorts and the captain will usually have an admiral on the scene to answer to in the squadron/task force/fleet. In other settings, these get treated as extra-big cruisers. Either way, unless you're in a huge fleet battle, losing one of these is a big deal. A uniquely big one may be The Mothership, a Mile-Long Ship, or even a Planet Spaceship.


In real life, this was a ship as fast as a cruiser but, depending on whether you use the British or German definition, with the firepower or armour of a battleship respectively, meant to combat enemy cruisers where a battleship couldn't be spared. In practice, battlecruisers ended up serving with the main battle fleet because their firepower was too valuable to pass up, but their lack of armor became a liability for the Brits. In science fiction, usage of "battlecruiser" may vary. A lot of the time science fiction works just ditch the "battleship" name and instead call their biggest, most powerful ships "battlecruisers", probably because "battleship" sounds archaic (and battlecruiser does sound cooler). If the fictional work has both battleships and battlecruisers, then expect the latter to be slightly smaller versions of the former, as it often did happen in Real Life too.


An Airborne Aircraft Carrier several thousand feet (plus!) higher. Lightly armed, but carries Space Fighters of all kinds and is usually escorted by other Capital Ships. Somewhat like the Squishy Wizard of Capital Ships, especially when no Science Vessel is at hand. Occasionally has a built-in factory.

The Battlestar

Wields both guns and fighters, and is more often than not the Flagship of the fleet (unless a Dreadnought is on the scene). If the series only has one type of ship, it's usually this. See the trope for details.

Ship of the Line/Battleship/Dreadnought

A massive ship, usually the largest ship in the fleet, bristling with big guns. The navy's Mighty Glacier. Note that the term "fast battleship" exists, because some of them, like the Iowa, were really fast in addition to having shitloads of guns and armor. In the real world, being huge meant that they had more room for sails/engines/reactors, meaning that Bigger Is Better in almost every respect. However in sci-fi, they practically always move at a snail's pace because really heavily armed and armored AND really fast ships would leave those taking Artistic License with Economics the question 'Why do we make anything else?' For the rest of us, the answer is logistics and economics. Even strategy games, which often abstract or handwave away advanced economic concerns, recognize that bigger ships take more resources and time to build. Even a modern industrial powerhouse like the USA can only operate 11 supercarriers and their Carrier Strike Groups at once, and costs would only go up for spaceships. Few are the factions with the economic capabilities to build only capitals. Besides, although you can use a sledgehammer to swat flies, it is neither the fastest nor most efficient tool for the job.

The Worldship

That's No Moon!, that's a space station! These are basically mobile Space Stations, which may be used as homes by nomadic civilizations (especially a Horde of Alien Locusts), or as crowning achievements in engineering by a large spacefaring society. See also Big Dumb Object.

Banner Ships

Not necessary a true warship, but essentially carrying either the command party and a variety of tools to coordinate and command allied ships. Its sight in the battlefield brings despair to the foes and hope to the allies. May be either unarmed so it can be an iron fortress for the fighters or armed sufficiently to protect itself. Think of them as the space variant of an AWACS or a command and control ship.

Some ships stand out due to various unique constructions or abilities, and are less noted for specific size or roles. These aren't found in every series, but appear often and are notable enough to warrant special mention:

Detachable Drive

An uncommon class of ship or Small Craft that basically serves as a flight system to allow a ship type of similar or smaller size to move further than it is normally designed to (Faster Than Light travel for an extreme example). These are often little more than a drive system, fuel, and an external docking mechanism for the craft to attach to (see also Mecha Expansion Pack). Commonly used by Space Fighters or Humongous Mecha, although versions for larger ships are also seen from time to time. They're always way cooler than mere Space Tugboats.

Missile/Torpedo Boat

A ship whose main armament consists almost entirely of missiles and/or torpedoes. A few universes, due to their technological development, may have their entire fleets be basically this. There is such a wet navy concept called the arsenal ship, although it has not actually made it off the drawing board. Historically, Torpedo Boats played the role of a Fast Attack Craft (see above) - a small, lighter craft capable of destroying slower Battleships. However, for the Standard Sci-fi fleet any size of ship will do for a Torpedo Boat.

Prison Ship

Normally unarmed in case of prison revolts but also escorted to prevent break-outs from outside forces. Prison ships are rare in military settings but will normally occur in settings with Casual Interstellar Travel. This has some basis in Real Life, with the use of prison ships as a cheap alternative to building additional prisons, especially during wartime. Such prisons were often Hellhole Prisons.

Science Vessel

The Squishy Wizard of space, these ships generally aren't meant for combat but have specialized equipment and capacities that can be repurposed as weapons. Typically equipped with advanced sensor arrays, Polarity Reversers, and a Deus ex Machina or two if you're lucky.

Hospital Ship

Another rarely seen type, these ships provide medical treatment. They tend to help in evacuation, heal wounded ground pounders, or even act as full blown hospitals. Like their wet navy counterparts, these ships could be well marked to easily identify it, and tend to be unarmed. Deliberately attacking one of these ships is usually considered a war crime.

Space Gun

The Spaceborne equivalent to the BFG, the Space Gun is a ship (usually of the smaller classes, but some can be the size of a Battleship, Dreadnought, or even Space Station) that consists of a command bridge, the biggest weapon they could find (up to, but not always, a Wave Motion Gun), the engines to move it around, and little else. Space Guns are usually Glass Cannons that add to the overall firepower of a fleet due to their ability to punch well above their weight, but are otherwise vulnerable and have to be screened by fighters and other ships.

Space Station/Star Base

Usually rivaled in size only by the Battleship and Dreadnought (or in more extreme universes, Worldship) classes, these are (relatively) immobile structures used for all kinds of duties, from habitats, to fortresses, space ports, factories, and the like. Colony Drops are always a danger when these things get knocked out of orbit. If the space station is even bigger than a World Ship, it might be a Dyson Sphere. Unneeded or obsolete ships of other types might be adapted to this use for various purposes (compare to the Real Life practice of such ships in port being used for housing or administration purposes without needing to construct additional buildings on land).
Armadillo Aerospace, orbital space flights, Space Adventure
Space, the next frontier, a vast expanse of uncharted territory that has intrigued and mesmerized mankind for as long as we gained sentience. With the last few decades, we have witnessed humanity’s insatiable appetite to learn more about the skies above and explore this serene, yet somewhat hostile environment. As technology progressed and the global economy came to a rising threshold, even the skies couldn’t escape from the economics of demand and supply and thus leading to the advent of space tourism.
Space Hotel, Masters Students, IDE
A group of brilliant Masters Students from IDE, which is run jointly by Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art, have come up with phenomenal plans to build a hotel in space, which can then be fitted to the International Space Station. Indeed, this will be very cool in case the plans work successfully. The enthusiastic students have already unveiled a 12 meter-long replica of the hotel interior, besides the animated computer designs.
Galactic Suites Hotel, Space Travel, Space Tourism, Future Technology
Space tourism is catching on, and that’s no wonder considering humanity’s love and curiosity for the vast expanse of the universe. Plus, the Galactic Suites will probably be a nice place for spaceships from the Space Port to dock at. And of course, it won’t be like a visit to any of the other hotels, those staying will have to wear Velcro-covered clothes. Each pod will have room for four people, and there will be two astronauts in the attached rocket.
Plasma Rocket, Ad Astra, Space, VASIMR VX-200
Plasma Rockets have been long discussed to be better alternatives to the conventional thrusters used for space flights, but so long, the plasma rockets haven’t really gone much ahead on the path. Now, a development by Ad Astra rocket company, the VASIMR rocket could really give a thrust to the Plasma Rockets. The company’s VASIMR VX-200 engine can generate 201kW in a vacuum chamber, and is now scheduled to be tested aboard the ISS in 2013.


Ships of the Line: The Overview of Military Spaceship Classes

During my writing of my first military sci-fi novel, Endangered Species, I researched the types of military space combat vessels that would exist in reality (since the book is more hard than soft sci-fi). As someone that grew up with Star Trek/ Star Wars you would expect when there is a real-space-going fleet, there would an vast array of warships, like the wet navies of the world maintains now.  After reading the article on Atomic Rocket (, I decided that would make an excellent article for FWS! Just like with the real navies, money, mission, area of operations, and range of the drive system would determine the scope and size of the space-going fleets of the future.Here is a list of the major seaborne naval warship classes verse the spaceborne warships, comparing and contrasting the two. This is not meant to be entirely hard science discuss, if you want that, than the link above is your best bet, nor is it completely soft on science, more in between the two. Over at Atomic Rockets website , Ken Burnside came up with a table matrix that divided up space-going ships by if they were capable independent patrol or had to a part of a larger main fleet. For example, a "Battleship" is part of the main fleet, and operates with other vessels, while the "Battlecrusier" is designed for independent operations and can hold it's own in ship-to-ship engagements. For those sci-fi creators out there, it seems to me, that in the realm of a space-going warships, the most important consideration is their faster-than-light (FTL) drive system. How it works and the rules of how it travels through space determines a great deal about your fictional universe. 

New and Improved Antimatter Spaceship for Mars Missions
Most self-respecting starships in science fiction stories use antimatter as fuel for a good reason – it’s the most potent fuel known. While tons of chemical fuel are needed to propel a human mission to Mars, just tens of milligrams of antimatter will do (a milligram is about one-thousandth the weight of a piece of the original M&M candy).

Nuclear-thermal rocket design Image right: A spacecraft powered by a positron reactor would resemble this artist's concept of the Mars Reference Mission spacecraft. Credit: NASA

However, in reality this power comes with a price. Some antimatter reactions produce blasts of high energy gamma rays. Gamma rays are like X-rays on steroids. They penetrate matter and break apart molecules in cells, so they are not healthy to be around. High-energy gamma rays can also make the engines radioactive by fragmenting atoms of the engine material.

The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) is funding a team of researchers working on a new design for an antimatter-powered spaceship that avoids this nasty side effect by producing gamma rays with much lower energy.

Antimatter is sometimes called the mirror image of normal matter because while it looks just like ordinary matter, some properties are reversed. For example, normal electrons, the familiar particles that carry electric current in everything from cell phones to plasma TVs, have a negative electric charge. Anti-electrons have a positive charge, so scientists dubbed them "positrons".

When antimatter meets matter, both annihilate in a flash of energy. This complete conversion to energy is what makes antimatter so powerful. Even the nuclear reactions that power atomic bombs come in a distant second, with only about three percent of their mass converted to energy.

Previous antimatter-powered spaceship designs employed antiprotons, which produce high-energy gamma rays when they annihilate. The new design will use positrons, which make gamma rays with about 400 times less energy.

The NIAC research is a preliminary study to see if the idea is feasible. If it looks promising, and funds are available to successfully develop the technology, a positron-powered spaceship would have a couple advantages over the existing plans for a human mission to Mars, called the Mars Reference Mission.

diagram of positron rocket Image left: A diagram of a rocket powered by a positron reactor. Positrons are directed from the storage unit to the attenuating matrix, where they interact with the material and release heat. Liquid hydrogen (H2) circulates through the attenuating matrix and picks up the heat. The hydrogen then flows to the nozzle exit (bell-shaped area in yellow and blue), where it expands into space, producing thrust. Print-resolution copy Credit: Positronics Research, LLC

"The most significant advantage is more safety," said Dr. Gerald Smith of Positronics Research, LLC, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The current Reference Mission calls for a nuclear reactor to propel the spaceship to Mars. This is desirable because nuclear propulsion reduces travel time to Mars, increasing safety for the crew by reducing their exposure to cosmic rays. Also, a chemically-powered spacecraft weighs much more and costs a lot more to launch. The reactor also provides ample power for the three-year mission. But nuclear reactors are complex, so more things could potentially go wrong during the mission. "However, the positron reactor offers the same advantages but is relatively simple," said Smith, lead researcher for the NIAC study.

Also, nuclear reactors are radioactive even after their fuel is used up. After the ship arrives at Mars, Reference Mission plans are to direct the reactor into an orbit that will not encounter Earth for at least a million years, when the residual radiation will be reduced to safe levels. However, there is no leftover radiation in a positron reactor after the fuel is used up, so there is no safety concern if the spent positron reactor should accidentally re-enter Earth's atmosphere, according to the team.

It will be safer to launch as well. If a rocket carrying a nuclear reactor explodes, it could release radioactive particles into the atmosphere. "Our positron spacecraft would release a flash of gamma-rays if it exploded, but the gamma rays would be gone in an instant. There would be no radioactive particles to drift on the wind. The flash would also be confined to a relatively small area. The danger zone would be about a kilometer (about a half-mile) around the spacecraft. An ordinary large chemically-powered rocket has a danger zone of about the same size, due to the big fireball that would result from its explosion," said Smith.

Another significant advantage is speed. The Reference Mission spacecraft would take astronauts to Mars in about 180 days. "Our advanced designs, like the gas core and the ablative engine concepts, could take astronauts to Mars in half that time, and perhaps even in as little as 45 days," said Kirby Meyer, an engineer with Positronics Research on the study.

Advanced engines do this by running hot, which increases their efficiency or "specific impulse" (Isp). Isp is the "miles per gallon" of rocketry: the higher the Isp, the faster you can go before you use up your fuel supply. The best chemical rockets, like NASA's Space Shuttle main engine, max out at around 450 seconds, which means a pound of fuel will produce a pound of thrust for 450 seconds. A nuclear or positron reactor can make over 900 seconds. The ablative engine, which slowly vaporizes itself to produce thrust, could go as high as 5,000 seconds.

positron ablation rocket Image right: This is an artist's concept of an advanced positron rocket engine, called an ablative engine. This engine produces thrust when material in the nozzle is vaporized (ablated). In the image, the engine emits blue-white exhaust as thin layers of material are vaporized by positrons in tiny capsules surrounded by lead. The capsules are shot into the nozzle compartment many times per second. Once in the nozzle compartment, the positrons are allowed to interact with the capsule, releasing gamma rays. The lead absorbs the gamma rays and radiates lower-energy X-rays, which vaporize the nozzle material. This complication is necessary because X-rays are more efficiently absorbed by the nozzle material than gamma rays would be. Credit: Positronics Research, LLC

One technical challenge to making a positron spacecraft a reality is the cost to produce the positrons. Because of its spectacular effect on normal matter, there is not a lot of antimatter sitting around. In space, it is created in collisions of high-speed particles called cosmic rays. On Earth, it has to be created in particle accelerators, immense machines that smash atoms together. The machines are normally used to discover how the universe works on a deep, fundamental level, but they can be harnessed as antimatter factories.

"A rough estimate to produce the 10 milligrams of positrons needed for a human Mars mission is about 250 million dollars using technology that is currently under development," said Smith. This cost might seem high, but it has to be considered against the extra cost to launch a heavier chemical rocket (current launch costs are about $10,000 per pound) or the cost to fuel and make safe a nuclear reactor. "Based on the experience with nuclear technology, it seems reasonable to expect positron production cost to go down with more research," added Smith.

Another challenge is storing enough positrons in a small space. Because they annihilate normal matter, you can't just stuff them in a bottle. Instead, they have to be contained with electric and magnetic fields. "We feel confident that with a dedicated research and development program, these challenges can be overcome," said Smith.

If this is so, perhaps the first humans to reach Mars will arrive in spaceships powered by the same source that fired starships across the universes of our science fiction dreams.

Space Ships

  • Boeing Delta Launch Vehicle Information
    Information about the Delta launch vehicles from Boeing. Delta II comprises a group of expendable rockets that can be configured as two- or three-stage vehicles and with three, four or nine strap-on graphite epoxy motors depending on mission needs.

  • NASA's New Space Launch System (SLS)
    The U.S. Space Launch System, or SLS, will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond Earth orbit. It also will back up commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.

  • Sea Launch System
    The Sea Launch Zenit-3SL system was developed to address the commercial satellite market need for reliable and affordable launch services.

  • Space X Dragon Launch Vehicle
    The Falcon 9 is one of the first commercial launch vehicles. It provides breakthrough advances in reliability, cost, flight environment and time to launch.

  • United Launch Alliance Launch Vehicle Information
    Information about the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles from the United Launch Alliance (ULA).



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