Container Ship

During the Petroleum Era massive and super massive container ships plied the oceans carrying hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo per load. While in many cases, the size and scope of the Cosmic Era is somewhat smaller than the smoke filled Petroleum Era, the need to move massive amounts of cargo efficiently remains. The massive container ship is less common, but the ships of this type never enter a planet's atmosphere, or set down on the surface of even a barren moon. Most of the container ships are involved in terraforming operations, moving cargos of water and volatiles from the outer reaches of the solar system to Mars and other points. There are also container ships that move refined metals from asteroid belt refineries to various other interests around the system. Despite frequently being used as bases for space pirates and being retrofit into massive space war wagons, container ships are remarkably bad at combat. The ships are massive, they are slow and have almost non-existent maneuverability. While capable of carrying stunning amounts of cargo, they have no armor, and their superstructure is designed to use the strength of shipping containers to reinforce their structural stability.

The Atlantic Federation, Pacific Rim Coalition, and India use a standardized container, roughly the same volume as a modern tractor trailer, but cube in shape, rather than rectangular. These superstates have strong interests in the Asteroid Belt, and in goods that are found well away from Earth.

Bulk Freighter

The Bulk Freighter is similar to the container ship, both are massive ships, but the bulk freighter differs in that it carries raw materials and things like ore, ice, or toxic waste. The freighter is distinguished by having large reinforced holds, or being modified for moving specific cargoes. These ships are large and expensive to operate, but the payouts from their large cargoes justifies their cost. Bulk freighters come in a variety of sizes, and while the most common explanations are Small, Medium and Large, the actual nomenclatures are TerraMax, AresMax, and LunaMax, with each representing the planetary body they are capable of landing on and taking off from with a full load.

TerraMax ships are the smallest, requiring more substantial engines to overcome Earth's gravity and atmosphere. These ships are the most common, and compared to the other types, the fastest. TerraMax ships can also generally land on and take off from almost any body in the solar system.

AresMax ships are the middle sized, capable of landing and launching from Mars. Larger than TerraMax, these ships are common throughout the system as the middle ground in cargo hauling.

LunaMax ships are the largest bulk freighters, and even though they can land and launch from Earth's moon, they seldom do, to reduce gravitational stress on the ship's spaceframe.

Tramp Freighters and Freight Liners
Tramp freighters are independent cargo ships that do not have established lines of transit and a home port. Freight Liners have home ports and long established shipping lanes, such as the lucrative Ares-Gaia line, that sees heavy freighters and container ships moving goods back and forth from Mars to Earth. Tramp freighters are common in space action adventure vids.

Space Trucks

Space Trucks occupy a niche under the Light Freighter. The space truck is a small craft capable of being operated by 2 to 3 crewmen and carries a small payload, generally less than 200 tons. The most common use of space trucks is moving containers back and forth from the much more massive container ships, and pushing bulk cargo modules. These smaller craft do not run long range shipping lines, and the majority are used in surface to orbit, orbit to surface, and moon to moon or moon to planetside.

Space Trucks are not economically feasible and efficient for long range hauling, as to do anything longer than a 2-3 day run would require it's container capacity to be compromised to house more fuel and supplies for the vehicle's small crew.

Shipping in most space operas ignores things like the actual logistics of freight hauling and shipping, where the biggest value is cost per mass per mile. Small ships are the least economical means of carrying cargo, and so called light freighters like the Millennium Falcon are just not feasible. With a cargo capacity of less than 100 tons, the Falcon is an interstellar cargo ship that can only carry as much as two semi-truck loads of goods. Compared to the cost of building, and operating a ship capable of interstellar travel, the ship could only feasibly function as a very high value cargo hauler, moving things that are the most expensive, like pharmaceuticals, top level electronics, and courier services.

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A Sleeper Ship is a small to medium sized ship that handles the issue of keeping the crew alive for the duration of a mission by using suspended animation or hibernation technologies. A person in suspension uses drastically less food, water, and oxygen, reducing the amount of those goods that a ship has to carry.

Snooze Freighters - also known as a Triple Z Hauler, these are freight craft that keep a rotating human crew, but are running either long runs or slow runs. Snooze freighters typically are associated with bulk cargos (the sort worth so little that they aren't going to be hijacked, like raw ore or ice) or with independent operators who can't afford the newer faster ships.

Sleep-port - the sleeper transport, these craft carry large numbers of people too and from destinations, contrary to cruise lines, these are working class crews, and are being ferried to and from home ports to their working stations and offworld colonies. A single Sleepport might have several hundred people aboard it, in hibernation pods, while a small crew trucks them out to their destination. Without the sleep component, the ship would easily be a dozen times larger and much more expensive to operate.

Contrary to the popular tradition of spending long trips connected to the CogNet in digital dreams, suspended animation sleep is hard sleep. In hard sleep, the brain is greatly reduced in activity, and is not connected to the net for anything other than biomonitoring.

Generational Sleeper - a concept ship, the generational sleeper has a two tiered crew, one that is born and raised on the generational ship, and a command crew that rotates through suspension cycles to maintain the integrity of the mission. The ideal is that such a ship could leave the solar system and reach a distant star while retaining it's ethnic and cultural identity, ensuring that the fledgling colony would remain a loyal part of the nation that launched it.