Ship Focus : Alsephina Courier
Type: Surface-orbit light courier/picket.
Original manufacturer: Alsephina Shipyards.
Current pattern status: Proprietary.
Propulsion: Damask-derived convertible engine.
Armament : ECM suite (default), 2x anti-ship missile hardpoints (presumed, illegal version).
FTL capable: no.
Length: 25 meters.
Payload: Up to 8,000 tons with canisters.
Passengers: up to 2.
Also known as Space Age Ghost, Mail Dart.
Alsephina Shipyards is a cooperative outfit created by qith Tsuno and the Astropostale, that before coming to fame for its sleek, streamlined interstellar designs used to be known for its propensity to develop weird prototypes and odd designs. One might also add "historian" to their skillset as their most successful sublight endeavour bears more than a passing resemblance to the North American X-15 which dates back to the early space age. How and why Alsephina engineers decided to reuse a six centuries old frame instead of modern designs is a very good question, but the "experimental test pilot" ethos attached to this fuselage plays very well with the way the Astropostale considers space flight.
Now to be fair, the Alsephina Courier is a vastly improved version of its distant predecessor. Equipped with Damask-class reactors (the same engine as the one used on the Caravelle Courier), the Alsephina Courier is a fully independent SSTO vehicle capable of horizontal landing and take off as well as limited orbital manoeuvers. Rugged and reliable the Alsephina Courier is meant to be used as a shuttle between an FTL-capable mail vessel (usually an Inyanga derivative) and ground facilities...even if (especially so, would say some pilots) they are no more than a dusty runway in a desert. The Alsephina Courier is more manoeuvrable than it looks thanks to variable-geometry wings and very well-tuned autopilot systems that can even stabilize it amidst a continental storm. Landings are often precarious and the tricycle gear isn't exactly ideal but the Courier is a simple vessel that can easily be repaired in the field. Even its heat tiles can be swapped out by a random technician on a barren planet, given that they are the same as the ones used on an Open Source Orbiter. On a full tank the Alsephina Courier can land, deliver its mail and ascend to low planetary orbit once; the Astropostale tends to pair the ship with rocket boosters to increase its endurance. When not equipped with auxiliary engines the Alsephina Courier may mount two padded canisters that can carry up to 8 metric tons of mail. Two passengers may also be carried aboard albeit the ride is probably going to be less than pleasant: "stability" was meant for the frame and cargo, not the crew.
Technically the Courier can also perform high-speed point-to-point deliveries on the same planet, much like all orbiters, but strangely enough, same-hour delivery never really took off in the Astropostale.
The surface-to-orbit capacities of the Courier, allied with its reliability, can turn the ship into an improvised, but rather efficient combat vessel. With its pilot replaced by a drone module and two missile hardpoints installed under its wings, the Alsephina Courier can be converted into the Alsephina Picket, a heavy "Karman bomber" capable of striking vessels in high orbit. The combat capability of such a conversion is doubtful but a few communes have nonetheless bought Couriers for their military.
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