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Ship Focus: Spacecoach

Type: Ultralight multirole vessel.
Original manufacturer
: Unknown.
Current pattern status
: public domain.
Propulsion: Microwave electrothermal drive.
FTL capable:
Length: 20 meters.
Payload : 20-50 tons.

Crew: up to 5, optionally manned.
Also known as Duct Taped Miracle.

In space, what is the most common molecule you can build things out of?

Water. The answer is water. Water ice, more specifically -- an ubiquitous substance, found in asteroids, on gas giant moons, on planets, everywhere. So why not build a spaceship out of water ice? After all, water is already used as shielding for a variety of vessels. Why not the whole hull? Turns out, someone already had that idea a while ago -- almost two centuries ago, in fact. And the result of their cogitations is the Spacecoach.

The Spacecoach is one of the simplest ships a commune can get their hands on. It is the purest, simplest expression of what a vessel can be: an engine, a few RCS modules, an inflatable crew and machinery section, propellant tanks and a scaffolding to link all of the parts and greebles together. The main superstructure is built out of carved ice, the engines are microwave electrothermal drives that run on water propellant while the outer hull made with slow melting ice compounds such as pykrete. With the exception of its inflatable parts and mechanical elements, the Spacecoach is built out of and runs on H2O. Considering that all of the non-watery modules can be 3D printed for cheap in any self-respecting workshop, the Spacecoach is not just cheap, it's almost free.

Such simplicity comes at a cost, of course. Spacecoaches are so slow their acceleration can be measured in units of snails, they tend to temporarily melt and lose cohesion when a powerful drive or laser merely sneezes at them and the word "cramped" doesn't begin to describe how the manned units feel. Not that it is show-stopper, mind. Spacecoaches aren't meant for long-range travel or complex operations. They are pure utility vessels, the larger-scale equivalent of jinn drones. They are very well-suited to simple, repetitive tasks with low capital investment. Spacecoaches are thus often found in space mining operations, where they are used to capture loose asteroids, work around them, ferry drones in and out of the extraction zones and, in general, fill the role of "space forklifts." They are also appreciated in orbital spaceports, where they are often present in stripped-down versions, devoid of drives and moving on RCS only. Large vessels such as Farseers often have a small flotilla of multi-purpose Spacecoaches, jokingly referred to as "gnomes." The Spacecoach pattern being in the public domain, everyone uses it, everywhere. 

For such an ubiquitous vessel, though, the Spacecoach is strangely rare in pop culture -- it is more of a background element, like the ads in noir movies depicting the late industrial era -- with the notable exception of the Elora Grand Tour, a highly publicized "slingshot race" where brightly-colored Spacecoaches run circles around the system's main gas giant all the while engaging in rap battles through laser-transmitted Morse code. It has a very serious following.

llustration by Maciej Rebisz for Eclipse Phase, distributed by Posthuman Studios under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-alike 3.0 Unported License.

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