Headline:All in the Family
Date:Monday, July 22, 2019
Posted By:Plaid Hatter Games

This post continues on with the ideas developed in The Spin on Spin

I am beginning to see the Iliad as a bit of a Frankenstein's monster, made up of the available parts of other classes. And the back story is that, indeed, it is.

The Iliad is the red-headed stepchild of a family of vessels designed by the International Space Treaty Organization. It is assembled, relatively quickly and as cheaply as possible using existing parts. The economy and speed of deployment is to counter the threat of the Krasnovian Republic, who have recently decided to expand their sphere of Influence into neighboring star systems through the use of the 1G drive.

The design concept is that the Iliad class is an extension of an existing deep space vessel, the Gilgamesh class heavy water collector/refinery:

The Gilgamesh was designed to fly out to the Oort cloud and consume a comet at a time. It extracts the Deuterium and Tritium from that comet material, and spits out the rest. The Refinery requires massive amounts of power to operate. But because the vessel is essentially extracting fuel as it goes, it really only needs enough fuel to get out to the Oort cloud. It comes back far, far heaver than it leaves. But the trip, and the process of refining the comet down to the useful bits takes time. So the ship includes two of the spheres that would later be developed into the Iliad's habitat. These spheres allow the crew to grow their own food and maintain a long term biosphere. And do so whether the ship is thrusting (getting out to a comet) or idle (refining a comet or offloading/reprovisioning).

The Gilgamesh crew is much smaller than the Iliad, and the mission durations are on the order of 2-3 years before returning to port. So they can rely on internal stores for many parts and consumables. They also do not have to worry too, too much about population growth. When people want to start a family, they have the option of transferring to one of the asteroid colonies at mission's end. But the design managed to demonstrate the ruggedness of the overall architecture, and the viability of its systems over a long period of time.

As far as vessel names go, I think I'll actually go with the idea that each ship has an "official" name with the Ship's class and a hull number (ILIAD-022), and the "Given" name which is whatever the crew feels like calling it.

Because of the ongoing threat of war, the Iliad class are designed to collect their own fuel rather than place an enormous demand on the fuel logistics system of the rest of the ISTO fleet. One ship needs to stock up on enough fuel that would supply any other vessel for nearly a century, after all. The added expense of the extra reactors and industrial equipment for doing its own fuel processing is, while not small, not all that large given all of the other things packed on board an Iliad. (Not the least of which: CREW.)

If you are curious about the other classes of vessels in the ISTO fleet:

  • Aeneid - Stationary Logistics Hub/Colony Platform.
  • Beowulf - Capital Warship
  • Cantos - Fleet Logistics Transport
  • Dante - Asteroid Mining and Refining Platform
  • Enuma Elish - Shipyard Platform
  • Furiso - Picket Ship / Escort
  • Gilgamesh - Long Range Heavy Water Collector / Refinery
  • Hilal - Scout Vessel / Prospector
  • Iliad - Inter-Stellar Colony Vessel

The vessels were designed in blocks, in order to exploit commonality in design. All use the same reactor module and engine platforms. (Though variations in the modules allow for larger and smaller examples of each design.) The Beowulf, Cantos, Furiso, and Hilal classes are designed to mimic gravity in accelleration only. For short mission durations that have facilities on board to handle zero-gravity operations. If they are to remain on station for any length of time, they dock with one of the larger platforms, who have facilities to latch onto them and provide rotation. Well, rotation and shore facilities.

The Iliad, as a forward staging base, has facilities to do its own fuel refining, as well as facilities to harvest metal from minor planets. While it doesn't have the capacity of either the Gilgamesh or Dante, its basic job is to be able to harvest enough material from the star system to be able to construct more specialized platforms and parasite craft.

You will note a lack of shipbuilding apparatus. This is because graving facilities will be constructed on-site. Ideally a metal-rich planetoid like Psyche. What the Iliad does provide is hundreds of thousands of square feet of factory floor to make all of the smaller components.

The Iliad does have a harbor facility, I had originally envisioning them to work like the shuttle bay in Star Trek. But small craft would not have the legs to reach anywhere useful in a solar system that has but one port of call. I'm now realizing that space would better work as a fleet of 12 parasite craft. Probably Cantos Class. They are small ships with modular mission bays, capable of working for weeks or months at a time. The Cantos' will explore the remote system and bring back material that is impractical to dispatch the Iliad herself to retrieve. As the colony expands, these 12 ships will also lug people and material back and forth to these different areas.

The Iliad will act as the local population center. When it arrives, it will first find a comet, and top off its fuel tanks. Then, between its sensors and those of its 12 "apostles", hunt down the materials it needs to establish a new civilization. Because the vessel can gorge on so much fuel, it can probably construct the core of the colony as well as its entire starter fleet before it needs to take off and find another comet to consume.

With the colony established, the needs of the individual colony can govern whether how the Iliad serves best. In some cases, it will stock up and sail back to the Solar system. In others, she'll be the colony's fuel mining and processing vessel. In others, she'll be used to found several core colonies in different parts of the system before ultimately being scrapped for parts to make more ships.