The Aquila type multi-purpose spacecraft is a sub-light utility spacecraft with interplanetary range. It is used for logistical and tactical support of exploratory missions within the fleets of the New Commonwealth and the Free Alliance and is the primary support spacecraft assigned to Explorer and Defender Class ships. In its commercial (Aquila-C) variant, it is used for interplanetary transport within systems with multiple inhabited planets or outposts.
Design and Development
When the Odyssey Galactic Exploration Project evolved into Phase II (Ongoing relations with re-discovered colonies and expanded exploration of the Perseus Quadrant), a decision was made to develop new support spacecraft to replace the venerable Aves-Class. The general specifications called with greater and more flexible mission capacities; including long-term support of ground missions, rapid evacuation of the mother ships, and swappable mission modules for enhanced flexibility.
The swappable mission module was the most innovative system on the new ships. These modules fit into the center of the main fuselage and align to the forward section of the main deck (which contains seating for twenty passengers and four forward workstations) and the engineering section at the rear. With the exception of the tactical module, they can also serve as orbital evacuation pods (lifepods) and are equipped with parachutes and microthrusters to enable a safe landing in the event they must be ejected in flight.
Unlike the Aves, which were built exclusively by the Cloudbuster Aerospace Company at the Hyperion Shipyards on Sapphire's second moon, the new class of ship would be built in the Republic system as well. It was decided that once a common spaceframe design, mission module specifications, and systems architecture was agreed upon (enabling ships built by different worlds to use common hangar and support facilities), other details could be installed by the ship's manufacturers.
After a year of consultation between Cloudbuster Aersopace and a consortium of associated companies on one side and the Republic Ministry of Galactic Exploration and several other Ministries, a basic design was agreed upon that met requirements while allowing for modifications and customization. The design was designated Aquila. It was 10 meters longer than the Aves class, four meters wider, and supported multiple mission modules.
The large Accipiters mounted on the wingblades were replaced with two small Aiglet reconnaissance drones mounted inside the secondary fuselage. Dual powerplants replaced the Aves single reactor. The distinctive "bubble" canopy was replaced with a fully enclosed command deck surrounded by sensor strips. The command module can also eject and function as a lifepod. Its Artificial Intelligence system was considerably enhanced over the Aves.
The Aquila was designed to support a variety of mission modules that could be quickly swapped out of the primary fuselage.
Multi-Mission Module - This module provided standard survey, communication, cargo and sensor packages.
Science Module – The science module contains a fully equipped science laboratory capable of carrying out a range of experiments and analyses. This lab might be used, for example, to collect and analyze specimens from a planet with a biosphere that was inhospitable to human life.
Survey Module – The Survey Module supports an enhanced Sensor and Telemetry pallet for collecting data and mapping new worlds.
Rescue Module – The Rescue Module contains equipment for search and rescue operations and a well-equipped medical bay.
Evacuation Module - This module provides a dense seating arrangement for 120-150 passengers to be used in an emergency evacuation of a ship or space station.
Tactical Module - This module provides a weapons platform capable of holding and launching ship-to-ship and ground assault missiles. Additional weapons packages and missiles could be attached to pylons on the secondary fuselage.
The final design was approved by Sapphire's Odyssey Part II Council 30 days later and by all required Republic Ministries, Subministries, Agencies, Task Forces, and Working Groups eight solar years after that. By which time, the Hyperion spaceyards had finished the first two prototype spacecraft. A year after approvals were finalized, Republic selected a production facility and began the approval process for permitting spacecraft production. In the course of space trials with the prototypes, Cloudbuster had developed a set of revised specifications for the production model after aviators noted inferior handling characteristics compared with Aves and maintenance crews reported numerous service difficulties with the systems and powerplant. Because changing the specifications would have required a complete repetition of the approval process, Republic chose to go into production with the initial specifications and make the necessary engineering changes once the aircraft were complete. (Aviators would subsequently note profound differences in the quality and performance of Aquilae built on Hyperion versus those built on Republic).
Aquila-A (Sapphire Variant): The initial tranche of Aquila ships were deployed to the Explorer Ship Perseus. Other tranches followed and were supplied to other ships as they came on-line. Only four years after the first Sapphirean Aquila were provided to Perseus, the first Republic-built Aquilae were supplied to the Explorer Ship Vanguard and the Defender Ship Indefatigable.
Aquila-B (Republic Variant): In addition to supporting the Odyssey mission, Aquila-B craft were also supplied to the Ministry of Defense (Republic), the Ministry of Planetary Security (Republic), the Ministry of Space Transport (Republic), and the Government of Republic. Twelve Aquila were procured for use as executive transports. Including ships designated Republic-1, Republic-2, Republic-3, Republic-4, Republic-5, Republic-6, Republic-7, and Republic-8 when occupied by the Prime Minister, or the Minister or leader of the respective House of Government.
Aquila-C (Commercial Variant): The Cloudbuster Company developed a third variant for interplanetary use transporting passengers and cargo. Commercial Variants were built for the Bountiful, Gander-Longueil, Sapphire, Wolf's Head, and Bella La Cava system.
Aquila-Q: Aquila spacecraft built outside the Sapphire-Loki-Republic systems are broadly designated Q. Colonies with production facilities include Bella La Cava, Chaldea (in the Bountiful System), Denali, Guelph, and Wolf’s Head. The Aquila-QJ Variant, built on Guelph colony, includes a model with a “Superdrive” propulsion system that permits interstellar transportation between Guelph Colony and the Gander-Longueil system two light years away.
Aquila-HDX: Experimental Interstellar Transport. The mission module is replaced by a Hyperdrive Field Generator and Navigation System based on the system used in the survey ships built for the Astra Consortium. The Aquila-HDX can only accommodate 7-10 passengers and crew, and its range is limited, but in flight trials, the transit time from Sapphire-Loki to Republic reduced from 21 Sapphirrean days to 21 hours. The variant could also be used on short-haul interstellar routes such as Guelph-Gander-Longueil and Boon-Furlong.
Production Centers and Major Users
All Explorer and Defender Class ships carry two flights of ten Aquilae each. Typically, one squadron on an Explorer Ship will be configured for transport and surveillance duties and the other maintained in a tactical configurations. Defender ships may operate with one or both squadrons in tactical configuration. Supply ships will typically carry a single flight of Aquilae configured for transport missions.
Aquila-C models have also gained common use as civilian and commercial interplanetary transports, and have been purchased in large numbers by the Governments of Republic, Independence, and Bountiful.
Major Aquila production facilities include the following:
Hyperion Spaceyards, Hyperion Moon, Sapphire - The Cloudbuster Spacecraft Company: Primary customers: Space Exploration Consortium, K-Wings Interplanetary Transport Systems, Aero-Loki, Sapphire Sky Partners, Outworld Starlines, the Mining Guild, Pulsar Spacelines, Pan-Galactic Spacelines, Carpentaria Cargo Services, Hyperion Spacelines. Production Facility C, CIty of Stars, Republic -- Government of Republic, New Commonwealth of the Galaxy.
Babylon Shipyard, Babylon Moon, Chaldea (Bountiful System) -- Government of Bountiful, New Commonwealth of the Galaxy, Zion And Northstar Transport Aeropace Services (ZANTAS), Pan-Columba Space Transportation Services
Kiering-Tanaka Corporation, Tanaka City, Bella La Cava -- Government of Bella La Cava, Government of Independence Colony, Badlands Transport Service
Styg-Vargen Shipyards, Styg-Vargan, Wolf's Head -- Government of Wolf's Head, Space Exploration Consortium, Drakken Space Transport Systems, Valkyrie Transport Systems
North Star Aerospatial Division, Polaron, Denali -- Government of Denali, Polar Star Flight Systems
Alpha Flight RKG, Chatham Bay, Guelph -- Government of Guelph, Government of Longueil, Government of Gander, New Commonwealth of the Galaxy, Space Exploration Consortium, Tri-Star Transport System, Trans-World Spaceliners.
In Popular Culture
The Bountiful System's Ensign Entertainment Network has produced a fiction-adventure drama called ‘Journey to Babylon’ which features 45 assorted passengers and crew (families, missionaries, exiles, businessmen, adventurers) whose Aquila encounters a wormhole on a routine flight from Bountiful Prime to Chaldea. The ship crashlands on a planet inhabited by other humans (and aliens) whose ships were also drawn in through the wormhole.