The Kalantha: Revealed

So, the Kalantha-class frontier trader. The iconic ship of the small traders of the Expansion Regions. The commonly found – maybe a hundred thousand built – everysoph, jack-of-all-trades ship that needs only minimal external support and can function in any of a large number of roles. Needs only a tiny crew. Easy to keep running forever, if you’ve got a Flight Engineer who’s even half awake.

The Firefly-class of its ‘verse, one might say.


Operated by: Free traders, especially in outer regions, primarily Empire and allies.
Atmosphere-capable multipurpose free trader.
Islien Yards (original); now licensed to multiple manufacturers.

Length: 42 m (forward hull); 96 m (propulsion bus)
16 m (forward hull diameter, not including radiators)
Loaded mass:

Gravity-well capable: Yes (forward hull only).
 Yes (forward hull only).

Personnel: 4, as follows:

Flight Commander
Flight Executive / Cargomaster
Flight Director / Sailing Master
Flight Engineer

Thinker-class AI.

Drive (forward hull): 3 x Jetfire Technologies trimodal NTRs
Drive (propulsion bus):
 Nucleodyne Thrust Applications 3×1 “Sunheart IV” fusion torch.
 Deuterium/helium-3 blend.
Cruising (sustainable) thrust:
 6.0 standard gravities (6.4 Earth G)
Peak (unsustainable) thrust:
 6.2 standard gravities (6.6 Earth G)
Delta-v reserve:
Maximum velocity:
 0.1 c (based on particle shielding)


4 x off-the-shelf camera/maintenance drones


1 x standard navigational sensor suite, Cilmínar Spaceworks



(Well, technically.

On each outer engine fin, the Kalantha-class has a hardpoint for aftermarket… freight handling equipment. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Freight handling equipment.

If you’re registered somewhere with halfway civilized attitude to shipboard arms and flying either likewise or in free space, then there’s absolutely nothing to stop you from ordering up a couple of mass drivers and mounting them here. Hell, the shipyard you get the ship from will be happy to do it for you. You would still be incredibly ill-advised to get your Kalantha into a scrap with anything resembling a real warship, but it is often sufficient to divert would-be pirates towards freighters registered in enforced-helplessness regimes.

If, on the other hand, you’re venturing into some of those and they’re inflexible when it comes to enforcing their law on visiting starships, there are any number of small yards offering genuinely innocent items of equipment that can be mounted to these hardpoints and yet which will make a nasty dent in a would-be attacker with just a few disabled safeties, simple mods, and trivial software changes, which they will be more than happy to instruct your engineer in how not to do accidentally. Be creative!)

Other Systems:

  • Cilmínar Spaceworks navigational kinetic barrier system
  • Biogenesis Technologies Mark VII regenerative life support
  • 3 x Bright Shadow EC-720 information furnace data systems
  • Islien Yards 2C vector-control core and associated technologies
  • Systemic Integrated Technologies dual-mode radiator system
  • 3 x modular hardpoints

Small craft:

1 x Élyn-class modular microcutter, in forward-mounted hull-pod (without module; modules can be stored in main hold)


If you were expecting something as sleek and shiny as the Drake, sorry. The Kalantha works for a livin’. (Well, okay, actually it is quite shiny, despite being lived-in – and won’t it be fun to try and achieve those two visual effects at the same time – due to the wonderful nanotech-type maintenance procedures. Sleek, on the other hand, less so.)

The Kalantha needs to be able to operate within gravity wells, in atmosphere, and otherwise across the interface line, because its explicit design goal is to service worlds that don’t necessarily have highports, and certainly don’t have developed starport facilities. This is, unfortunately, sadly in contradiction to its other design goal of being a good, efficient interplanetary/interstellar craft.

The Kalantha squares this circle as best it can by being two ships in one; an atmosphere-capable, landing-capable forward hull that doubles as the interface craft, and a propulsion bus that holds the fuel and drives necessary for interplanetary travel that can be left parked in orbit while the forward hull lands and goes about its business.


The forward hull of the Kalantha is the classic just-on-the-cone-side-of-cylinder-with-a-rounded-top – bullet-shaped, you might say – tail-lander hull, with a few minor variants. It has three modest radiator fins (the low-power radiators) extending from it, 120 degrees apart, one of which – the one with the yellow navigation light – we shall designate as indicating the arbitrary dorsal direction of the ship. Each of these fins, in turn, terminates at a vectorable engine pod, complete with iris-domed intake at the for’ard end and cascade vanes at the after end, housing one of the three trimodal NTRs which drive the forward hull when operating in uncoupled mode. Outboard of those are reaction-control assemblies, navigation lights, and the hardpoints.

On the opposite side of the ship, the arbitrary ventral, and filling most of the space between the other two radiator fins, are the two sets of cargo doors, opening on the lowest two decks; between the two doors is the eye of a tractor-pressor emitter to assist in loading. The lower of the two cargo doors comes complete with an extending ramp and a small “postern” door built into it for sophont boarding without having to open up the whole thing. Above both doors, on the next deck up, there’s a small streamlined structure taking up about a third of the inter-fin space in the center, with a rounded for’ard and 45-degree after cut-off, with windows facing out and down; that’s the quarterdeck/cargomaster’s office, situated where it can keep an eye on loading and the ground airlock.

Right up top, two symmetrical, cylindrical towers rise from the hull at the dorsal and ventral, each ending about a meter short of the bow. The one at the dorsal side has more than a few antennae and other communication widgets attached, and is topped by a circular dome window; the one at the ventral does not, and ends in a domed iris-opening. The rounded bow of the ship is a geodesic dome-window, stellarium-style; right in the center of this, where the axial shaft (see below) terminates at the bow, is a for’ard airlock for in-space use.

The rounded base of the ship, in uncoupled flight, is covered by a folding, iris-style heat shield. When retracted, this covers both (around the edges) the ship’s ruggedized landing gear, and (in the center) the coupler that connects it to the propulsion bus; including an aft spacetight door (not a full airlock) where the axial shaft ends, along with internal linkages for life support and fuel transfers, along with redundant power and data bus connections.


The internal layout is also classic tail-lander. The layout is arranged to function under gravity – whether planetary gravity or thrustdown in either coupled or uncoupled mode – but the ship’s systems are designed to function equally well in microgravity. Whether it does or not, well, that’s up to the taste of the individual crew.

The Kalantha-class is a nominally seven-decked ship, with all decks linked by an axial shaft running through the ship from bow to stern along the thrust axis, from the airlock at the bow (used to dock when in space) to the spacetight door aft that connects to the propulsion bus. The shaft contains a spiral stair running from one end of the ship to the other, and an elevator platform likewise; in microgravity, of course, you can simply float up the shaft. The shaft walls, apart from primary structural members, also contain the main power and data buses.

The lowest – or aftmost – two decks are the cargo bay; each level, as noted above, having its own cargo door to ventral. The cargo bay can function as either one deck or two; the only permanent structures on the second level are access catwalks, but the structure is designed to accept gratings which clamp into position between the catwalks, converting it into a true second deck. (This is common practice if you’re transporting small breakbulk rather than containerized cargo or large breakbulk.)

The next two decks are the engineering space; again not physically separated except for the second-level catwalks. The majority of the ship’s machinery is concentrated here: the vector-control core, the gyros, the auxiliary power reactor, the life support systems, the robot hotel, and the bunkerage and other tanks. The lower engineering deck also contains the above-mentioned quarterdeck at its ventral edge; the bunkerage is clustered around it and the corridor leading there from the axial shaft to cut down on machinery noise.

The top three decks are all sophont-oriented. The lowest hosts a small workshop space, two ‘fresher, and (usually) six modest cabins; enough for the crew and a couple of passengers. (Kalantha-class ships expecting to or chartered to carry more passengers usually handle the situation by installing some containerized people-pods and auxiliary life support down in the cargo bay.)

The next is the base of the two bow towers. To dorsal, the tower base holds the computer core and avionics equipment; its windowed extension bow-ward hosts the bridge/conning station. (Often, this is only manned during maneuvers; routine systems management can be done from almost anywhere on board.) To ventral, the tower serves as a (close) bay for the ship’s Élyn-class microcutter. Most of the rest of the deck is divided between the ship’s locker, galley, and medical bay, surrounding a small central common area.

And the small topmost deck, beneath its stellarium dome – again providing the vital service of stopping people from going tin-can crazy – is in its entirety the ship’s primary common area. Small inter-deck openings surrounding much of the central shaft provide convenient accessibility to the small central common area on the lower deck.


By comparison, the propulsion bus is very simple in layout; it begins with a broad, stubby truss to which the various auxiliary machinery of the propulsion bus is clamped; inside this right at the front end is mounted the small maneuvering pod, which combines a small piloting station for the propulsion bus alone with some of its diagnostic and avionics equipment, and a rear airlock permitting access down the truss. A for’ard spacetight door matches up with that at the stern of the forward hull when the ship is coupled. This region also contains the extendable remote antenna that permits the propulsion bus to be remotely controlled when it’s uncoupled.

Internally, the maneuvering pod is very simple; the for’ard hatch/window permits one person to access the conning seat located immediately behind it. Turn the seat around, and further back in the pod are some racks of avionics and diagnostics, a minimal commode (which flushes stored waste into the forward hull’s life support system when the ship couples), a mini-fridge for rations and potables, and the canned life support machinery (which likewise flushes and recharges when the ship couples). Right at the aft end is an airlock leading out onto a ladderway down the truss.

(Bear in mind that the maneuvering pod is never manned in normal operations; it exists only for (a) engineers while they’re running diagnostics or doing maintenance; and (b) when you’re landing somewhere that ain’t civilization in the strictest sense, and so you want to leave someone behind in the propulsion bus just in case any of the locals get clever ideas and need to be taught the Kzinti Lesson…

…they don’t mention that second application in the brochure, but they do imply it pretty well.)

Behind this the truss gives way to the structure wrapping the two giant spherical tanks containing the propulsion bus’s deuterium and helium-3 supplies; attached to the outer surface of this wrapping structure are the main high-power radiators for the fusion torch.

And then behind them is the shadow shield structure and the fusion torch itself.


3 thoughts on “The Kalantha: Revealed

  1. Question: How difficult it is to fully “automate” the Galantha class with either multiplicity of “sapient”-classified infomorphs or splinterselves? How many would be needed?

    • Oh, it’d be pretty easy. The Kalantha already comes with AI support, as do many ships of its low displacement – that’s how they get by with such small crews – and that thinker-grade AI is already perfectly capable of flying the ship. Add some business-management software and a couple more specialized robots, and you’re done.

      That said, you really wouldn’t want to, though. The only reason to bother dragging life support equipment and, indeed, all that crew volume around is if it’s useful to put embodied sophonts on the ground at your destination.

      If the job you want to do can be handled entirely by infomorphs (be they digisapiences or uploads), you’d buy a designed-as-such-from-the-spine-out drone freighter and add an extra brick or two of computronium if necessary – much cheaper, both to initially buy, and to operate compared to a back-hacked Kalantha or other vessel designed for embodied-sophont transport.

  2. Pingback: Empress Eledíë-class explorer | The Eldraeverse

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