"O, to leap, to rise, to soar!
Awaken that which dreams above!
One day our reach will cross the stars,
One day the beyond shall be ours."
- - Excerpt from a traditional Talian poem, roughly translated
Spacecraft are transportation craft that are able to traverse space on their own. More informally, the term "spaceship" is used synonymously, however historically a "spaceship" refers to a craft used to transport early space travelers. Even more informally "ship" is simply used instead, though there is a chance this may be confused for water-borne craft.
Spacecraft can be outfitted and built for any number of tasks, including trade, warfare, exploration and colonisation, and passenger or cargo transport.
Spacecraft are integral to modern civilisation, as they are the only means of transport between two stellar bodies.
A spacecraft is any transport craft with the ability to transport through space with their own means of propulsion, thus, a land vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft can be a spacecraft as well. Additionally, while they are capable of traveling and existing in space, most space stations do not count as spacecraft as they are unable to move on their own, granted there is no hard definition for the difference as most space stations have thrusters to make minor adjustments with their position and velocity.
The first spacecraft were crude satellites and ships to demonstrate technological prowess. The first true known spacecraft was the Terran Vergeltungswaffe-2, or V2, rocket. It was a ballistic missile used throughout World War II, and was capable of hitting targets some 320km away, albiet not very accurately. In later post-war years, other Terran nations experimented with this form of powered flight. At one point, scientists attached a small camera to the missile and launched, allowing Terrans to take the first photograph of Earth from space.
For a long while, spacecraft launching was an expensive pursuit. The use of vertical launch systems meant that most of the spacecraft that leaves the launch site is single-use only, limiting space travel. Towards the end of the 20th century, Terrans developed the Space Shuttle, a reusable space and glider hybrid that could be used for multiple missions in its lifetime, although most of the launch system was still single-use only.
Until the invention of the warp drive in 2034, Terrans were limited to the use of conventional rockets based mostly on the combustion of hydrogen, oxygen and kerosene fuel. During missions to Mars in the late 2020s and through the 2030s, journeys typically lasted between two to six months, and exploration was limited.
Ships are often classed with their function, however also sometimes classed by average size and, less often, by construction cost.
- Shuttle: Craft fitted primarly for the transit of goods or personnel. Though technically the two terms are interchangable, "shuttle" tends to be used to refer to a smaller ship making more routine journets, ex. between a capital ship and the surface of a planet.
- Transport: Craft fitted primarily for the transit of goods or personnel, at capital ship sizes.
- Superluminal Carrier: Also known as "hoppers", designed to pick up and superluminally transport single light craft such as a fighter or gunship which would otherwise be incapable of FTL travel. Incapable of doing much else.
- Light, medium, superiority fighter: Highly maneuverable, small, light craft, used to engage gunships or other fighters. Often sacrifices armour for agility and speed.
- Light, heavy gunship: Small, light craft used to cause carnage against larger targets such as capital ships. Comes with heavier armour and an extensive range of weaponry compared to fighter craft, often at the cost of agility.
- Scout fighter: Highly maneuverable, small, light craft. Sacrifices armour and weaponry for extended maneuverability and agility, as well as stealth and cloaking systems. Often unable to take on another fighter or gunship head-on.
- Corvette: Maneuverable craft, effectively an even heavier gunship, designed to stand as sentry against fighters and bombers, while also being able to bombard a capital ship.
- Frigate: Capital ship designed to defend other ships from corvettes, fighters and gunships.
- Destroyer: Capital ship designed to bombard heavier ships from afar. Often armoured more heavily.
- Cruiser: Capital ship designed to escort other larger craft as a platform for recon or specialised weapons systems.
- Battleship: Large capital ship designed to inflict maximum damage on opposing forces.
- Carrier: Large capital ship designed to transport fleets of fighters, gunships and corvettes over long distances. Able to defend from other light craft but cannot be counted on taking on other capital ships one-to-one.
- Dreadnought: Massive capital ship with omnicapable weaponry, designed to engage any threat.
- Supercarrier: Massive capital ship designed to transport frigates, destroyers and cruisers over long distances. Can be upgraded to have dreadnaught-comparable weaponry, though in the context of a fleet this is unlikely.