No, this is not an ode to a certain TV series or the setting*, but rather an expansion of a vital part of it.
The inspiration is one of the main characters, a spaceship of the Firefly class the characters live their lives in. Notice how the overall shape suits the class’ name, and the propulsion nicely goes along. During the series, the ship has clearly shown character, and made itself extremely easy to personify. It suited the crew well, too.
And so the characters were not merely traveling from A to B on some XYZ4567, they were flying with a ship of distinct qualities - even the NPCs were quick to recognize the type, and swiftly made assumptions about the crew (mostly not very favorable, though).
The idea and challenge of this thread, then, is to create space-worthy vessels, that have character of their own. Have fun!
(*But of course, go watch it, because it’s great. ;) )
Additional Ideas (8)
The SR-57T type wasn't intented to be called this way, but the nickname stuck immediately, with its low obese shape, and a frequent malfunction, that made it 'jump' several times before achieving high speed.
A Toad makes for a small ugly multifunctional ship, fit for minor trips with a crew of three; fifteen people onboard maximum (five is somewhat comfortable). It was an improvised escape pod; a scout; taxi between larger ships; used for shipping special units or sensitive cargo; and many things else. It is still common as a support ship for large convoys. It was sometimes lightly armed for the surprise factor (or a suicidal charge) in the war. Overall, it is an unsightly ship known for its moody behavior, and that it just won't go down. While able of inter-planet travels, it is rarely used for them.
There were at least five thousand of the ships produced. It is not rare to take two or three wrecks from a ship's graveyard, and make one functional of them. Some say the Toads will keep jumping around for centuries.
The sleek design, the retractable wings, the high speed and maneuverability close to a military fighter, boy is this a jet. Ten years ago, the best pickup line on the moon was "Do you want to see my Dragonfly?", sworn at by racing pilots as dandies. Now, it is not so hot anymore, but it can still be a mark of status, among the lower classes at least.
The final nail in the coffin of Longarm Enterprises, the Dragonfly series was put into production after an unusually long period of development. Making a high-class personal cruiser with substandard components produced bad results, until a genius engineer performed the tweak of the century. Designing a special set of tests, all the subsystems of a Dragonfly were tuned to each other at manufacturing time, so as to accept the diverse, normally incompatible parts.
A Dragonfly is a good-looking, fast ship, true. But as soon as something breaks, you get in trouble. Even if the best mechanics fix it, it is never quite the same anymore, exhibiting quirks, that only get stronger with time. After a few repairs, or any tinkering with the machinery, the performance is likely to go down dramatically, and after a few years of use is the ship basically a wreck.
Today, while still a sight, it produces contempt in most that know about ships. A hopeful owner either accepts the never-ending repairs which bring little good, or simply exchanges the whole inside, sacrificing some of the speed and control for reliability.
The interior size, thought for one or two passengers sitting or laying, was best described by the first customer: "Just enough for a nice threesome." Using it for actual interplanetary travel is considered crazy; but it was an escape craft for larger ships at times. Too bad it is so fragile.
The now-bankrupt Wu Jyu Zheng Industries was famous for their unconventional designs and systems formats that were incompatible with most other hardware. Though it turned out to be the downfall of the corporation, an entire underground industry grew around providing third-party parts, software, and systems for WJZ ships. The most successful and popular of these is the J-419 combat vessel, known to most as the Barracuda.
The ship's nickname comes from its narrow, sleek design and distinctive hull pattern, which consists of overlapping metal scales. Designed as a fighter, it is well endowed with 2 twin laser cannons, twin torpedo tubes, chaff countermeasures, and a point-defense laser system that can target incoming warheads. The standard package targeting system software is surprisingly thorough, though many pilots prefer their own customized versions. Designed for a pilot and gunner, the ships are easily adaptable for smuggling and even light freight at the expense of weaponry.
The real downfall of the Barracuda is its lack of defense. The hull plating is sturdy, but lacks efficient heat dispersion. The scaled armor is designed to shed individual scales when they take enough damage, but that system often malfuctions, sometimes causing the scales to overheat and explode. The deflector shield is distressingly weak, often the butt of jokes by pilots. Heat sinking is also a problem, though a number of third-party engineers provide better dispersion systems. The Barracuda does have the advantage of being very swift and manueverable, but its flight control systems are less than intuitive; many pilots who refit their Barracudas change the flight systems first as a rule.
A humongous ship designed for high-risk mining operations, the Mongor is a heavy-duty design, with heavy plating, redundant systems, fast recharge deflectors, thick radiation shielding and multiple damage-control systems. Much to the joy of mechanics who have to keep the Mongor operational, all systems have been designed simple and easily accessible in modules: if a component breaks, you simply unhook its module and press a new module box in place, giving you lots of time to tinker with the broken one later.
Certainly not a pretty ship, it resembles a huge carnivorous space monster with a bottomless maw, complete with rotating spiked rollers meant to crush any asteroid pulled inside to reach the riches within.
Its rather intimidating design is made complete by two Asmodan 3R Heavy Lasers, used for cutting lager asteroids and small moons as to fit the hungry maw of the Mongor. A high-power Kessen F3-P tractor beam delivers the chunks to the maw for processing.
As the Mongor was intended to be a mobile mining base, it hoses dozens of smaller ships, and has a vast cargo hold for supplies and mined resources, which are at least partially processed on-board as to haul only valuable cargo when the ship finally returns home.
A great investment by the Candar Commonwealth, they paid themselves off many times, venturing into the most desolate regions of space to claim their wealth. Still, their final use was never expected.
When the abundance of rare resources in the Hydra-7 sector became known, many of the Heavy Miners were sent there to harvest. The wealth surprised even the captains who had seen many an asteroid of pure titanium molten and cast into neat bars. There was no end to the mineral wealth, and most of the Mongor formed centers of thriving communities, many of their crew having been born there, and having never seen the tall spire-cities of Candar.
Then, they declared independence.
Dipl. Ing. Alexei Ivanovic Manzarsky spoke in his memorable speech that ignited the flames: "...and a man who creates a nutri-bag shall be allowed to feed on it until hunger is sated, one who builds a habitat shall not be without air or warmth, and, certainly, one who mines dilithium shall not live in squalor!"
The Commonwealth, having become more and more despotic over the passing decades, sent the starfleet in full force, panic-stricken, with the orders to kill any rebel they encounter.
Admiral duValle sensed victory within his grasp: but a few lighter patrol ships had fallen into the hands of the rebels, and except those, they had but modified freighters. They were fleeing!
His surprise was great though when one of the cadets declared: "Sir, on the starboard, one of the ...cities... is moving."
They all were shaken by the sudden pull of a tremendous force, as one of the war-scarred habitats broke away, to reveal a maw full of spinning teeth, each the size of a cruiser.
"All battle-stations, fire at will!" was the shocked admiral's command, "abandon ship!" soon thereafter, as he saw his ship's weapons blaze without effect against the over-charged front shields fuelled by the immense hoard of dilithium within the colossus, pulled ever closer, to be cut up by the two humongous lazers blazing like fires of hell, and later converted into neat bars ready to be sold.
The Mongor became the flagships of a new nation, cumbersome yet frightening, renamed, to the Unrepentant, the Defiant, the Bearer of the Flame, the Relentless and the Braveheart, some of them re-designed to carry a fleet of lesser ships in their hold.
The appearance of a Mongor III Heavy Miner is sure to strike the chords of fear in any Commonwealth soldier, especially after the Day of Fiery Skies, when, unexpected, the Mongor swooped down at Candar, cutting up a few of its small moons and lettign them fall.
A top secret project once, abandoned due to unsatisfying results, the two dozens Vipers produced were sold off after the Volthar the Iron Duke fell and his tyranical regime crumbled, with his generals splitting up what remained. Seeing little value in the hard-to-use Viper, they were sold at dumping prices.
For you see, the Viper is a ship like none other, useless to most.
First comes the peculiar design, for it is built like a serpent, the 'head' housing up to five crew (though they sleep in tubes more resembling coffins than anything else) and the long body being composed of segments bearing over-sized engines of strange design.
What makes this ship so unique, one might ask? First, it is an unique control rig, using a neural induction suit seen in the more advanced anthropomorphic battle robots, through which the pilot controls it like it was his body, rotating segments of the engine, and adjusting the thrust or pull of the repulsors, making for excellent maneuverability at the cost of user-friendliness: most pilots are incapable of learning the basic steering routines.
Other than that, the scout ship features but one light pulse laser and a single-shout Buster Missile launcher, a shield barely worth of notice and the fuel bill of a light cruiser.
What makes this peculiar contraption worth of noting, you ask? Its advanced sensor array, capable of picking up what the captain of *that* dreadnought is having for dinner? Perhaps. Its thousand-and-one secret compatments? No. The self-destruct sequence capable of overloading its massive engines within 1.16 seconds, leaving but a space-time anomaly behind? While an amusing feature due to the ease with which it is triggered, it's but a cherry on top of the ship's cream of uniqueness.
For the Viper can go where no other ship is able to.
Ordinary ships use their drives to ascend the progressively higher energy states of the hyper-space realities, ascending first to the tame aplha layer up to the rather turbulent epsilon layer, where the fastest military ships travel. Not so the viper.
It houses a reverse hyperfield generator (discovered rather through a lab assistant's carelessness than any intent) which shifts the ship carrying it not upwards to higher levels of hyperspace, but rather, sumerges it in the enigmatic lowest, or highest (depending on how you see it) level of hyperspace in one traumatic leap.
The imaginatevely omega layer is a ... place, for the lack of a better term, which has little to naught in common to a reality as we know it. While in this surreal locale, the Viper cannot be picked up by sensors and is, obviously, hard to pursue.
Each and every trip through the Omega layer will be an ordeal though, due to the frequent anomalies, freak gravity spikes from nowhere, chunks of weird matter and the occasional 'thing' that may be called a creature, if one broadens the definition of 'creature' sufficiently. Some of those seem to be attracted to the ship's drive, leading to interesting chases.
Still, these perils are little to the main reason the Omega layer is not travelled: some kind of radiation present there (which known shielding is, apparently, useless against) causes deterioration of the human nervous system in most individuals, or, less frequently, a change which makes it hard for the unfortunate individual to comprehend our normal, 3-dimensional space. Most of the unfortunate test pilots were impossible to save even through cutting-edge medicine. Those who can withstand the strange radiation are suprisingly often mentally unstable individuals. While the Duke's scientists were looking for a drug or device able to shield the crew, no positive results are known, and the research data, classified, have been lost.
Today, the Vipers serve as fast courier ships and spy vessels, or smuggle the most valuable (and lightweight) cargo. Invariably, they are owned and crewed by shady individuals, an outright aberrant bunch, except for one owned by the Space Ranger Iana Nova, a daring heroine with a mysterious past and motivation, who's popular with the media due to her excesses, scandals and incredible adventures, as well as obscene commentaries about just any topic and likewise obscene psychoterapy, property damage and insurance bills.
Of one you can be sure: where the distinctive form of the wiper shows up, things are sure to get interesting.
It is a small, hunchbacked ship, with many protrusions at its bottom end. The landing limbs are not completely retractable, indicating a purely space-bound vehicle. But as the joke goes, it can break atmo: once. The default construction has only the basic means of propulsion (so no warp drive or substitute). Weapons are not even considered for it; its shields are good against micrometeorites only. If there's trouble, run.
The Flea's name comes from its most typical activity: jumping from one body to another, and see which is worth mining; cartographing the area on the side. Prospecting requires a good sensoric array for its size, the means for collecting samples, and a tiny lab. Rarely, it serves as a decoy for other activities.
Small it is, it can transport three passengers, but it's obvious any longer journeys can be really made by one person only. Speaking of those: volunteers for such lone and claustrophobic trips tend to be a little... quirky, 'Flea-bitten', in the spacer jargon. Story goes about one paranoid fellow, who vanished, and was thought lost. But sometimes... sometimes he flies from his hideout, finds a ship that will take him on board, and murders everyone before resupplying. True story!
Besides asteroid fields, Fleas are employed in the rings of Jovian planets, and comet clouds of stellar systems. A space station, or a parked exploration ship would field several, and allow them to spread out and cover large areas.
CR-15 is a successful mid-sized transport ship, frequently employed on interplanetary and interstellar routes. Freshly manufactured, she is certainly a beauty with white plating and great design. On its own, it doesn't resembling a woman that much, but once loaded, the similarity to a female torso becomes striking.
The containers are of course normalized, and depending on how many are hanged behind it, is the ship said to have that long legs (they are attached in pairs or quadruples, in jargon thin legs or fat legs; how many are safe depends on the outside conditions, and needed maneuverability).
It was the first prototype, that was named 'Christine' by its test pilot. For a while, the name persisted, but as their numbers rised due to mass-production, captains would give them other female names. Addressing them as female is mandatory.
Christine's massive hull can take a dozen crewmembers, double that number in passengers if needed. It has solid engines in itself, and another pair or quadruple attached behind the cargo; two small shuttles, and two working platforms compliment them. (The shuttles are the main source of resemblance to a female body... now think of all the jokes when they land or take off.)
The other excellent feature are the holding mechanisms; they are slow, but can be controlled in almost in every manner possible, able to hold cargo 'before' the ship or on its sides. You can get away with a lot of things in space, but don't try to land in atmo with anything over thin legs, three containers long.
Captains like to mutter about entangling women, that never let a man go, when complicated maneuvers have to be performed, like offloading cargo in the crammed docking bays of stations. Actually, one wrecked Christine was used as the base of a space station.
Speaking of wrecked... she is truly a fine ship, but sometimes, the crews tend to risk too much, trusting their 'relationship' will get them through anything. Sometimes, obsessing around women is not a good idea, say gleefully the captains of other ships.
Also known as "Steel Vomit", this is possibly the most hated spaceship ever produced. Not that it is obvious - the shape is pleasantly aerodynamic, even smooth, there are no things sticking out like from other ships. The real danger lurks inside.
Take the doorways, for example. They are supposed to fit a person of any height, with "special comfort considerations" for the average person. In reality, most visitors hit their ankle or head as the first thing when entering. The seats and the beds are all ergonomic and fully adjustable, meaning you can't possibly find a position that is just comfortable, everything will be fine, but for a little detail, that prevents you from relaxed sleeping or sitting. The colors and internal design are chosen to support performance and good feeling, and along with the "consistent design" make it surprisingly easy to miss the right door. After a few weeks onboard most utterly despise the pastel color scheme, so it is often painted over. The background is but surprisingly resilient, and will show again, once the new paint falls off.
And this is its curse: it is a good ship, built of solid materials, with a fine engine and the best equipment for a decent price - but it is over-researched, and optimized to death, driving its passengers and crew insane. You may feel comfortable here, if you belong to the 0.001% of the population that is physically average. Others will have to hammer it to their needs. Just know that:
1. Everything can be adjusted here; though it might take a few years to set up the whole ship
2. It is perilously easy; many arguments have broken out over "Who fiddled with my seat/bed/anything?!"
The TR017 is a reliable and widespread transport ship, able to ferry dozens of passengers where needed. Somehow, few of them appreciate it.