Yes, that means it’s bad sketch time again here at the Eldraeverse… so here, have an interface vehicle.
Operated by: Various starports and near-orbit stations; capital ships.
Type: Pinnace / shuttle (belly-lander)
Construction: Llyn Standard Manufacturing, ICC & various licensees.
Gravity well-capable: Yes.
Personnel: 3 nominal, as follows:
Flight Commander / Sailing Master
Purser / Cargomaster
(Can operate with a single pilot.)
Passenger capacity: 24.
Drive: 2 x Jetfire Technologies trimodal NTRs
Propellant: Hydrogen slush
Acceleration capacity (nominal load): 4.3 G
Delta-v reserve: 18,300 m/s
Sensors: Standard navigational suite.
Weapons: None as standard. (Militarized version can mount turreted point-defense lasers above and below the bridge.)
Auxiliary power reactor (thorium pebble-bed).
Navigational kinetic barrier system.
Regenerative life support (atmosphere only).
3 x Bright Shadow flight computer systems
Small vector-control core and associated technologies.
Integral radiative striping.
As can be seen from the picture, the Lowari-class is a very simple surface-to-orbit-and-back ship; flying-wing in form factor, with the entire habitable space occupying the center of the wing area, with fuel tanks outboard of that on each side, and the trimodal NTR engines on each wingtip. Flight control is primarily provided by thrust vectoring of the NTRs, but aerodynamic control surfaces and small attitude-control arcjets back this up.
The livable area exists on one single deck, which doesn’t include much in the way of dedicated machinery space; the machinery is squeezed into spaces behind access panels, primarily into the subdeck and behind the bulkheads of (in particular) the cargo hold. The largest of these are two dedicated avionics spaces (labeled AV) at the back of the cargo hold.
The for’ard half of the livable area is the passenger deck. As the ship’s not intended for long-term habitation, this means seats, not cabins; large, comfortable, recline and put-your-feet up, quite-able-to-take-a-nap in leather seats with assorted luxury accessories, certainly – at least in the version they sell in Imperial markets, travelling like a gentlesoph and all that – but seats nonetheless. Three rows of four each to port and starboard; a total of 24 passengers.
This passenger area’s semi-divided by structures amidships. Going all the way floor to ceiling at the aft are two small compartments; a ‘fresher and what is, on the civilian model, a galley for serving drinks and snacks. (Military models may or may not keep this.) Ahead of that, and half-height, bearing in mind that the wing gets fatter towards the leading edge, is the airlock. It’s a fancy model with two operating modes: it has a conventional for’ard outer door designed to dock with other craft, but the floor also functions as an outer door; it’s designed to descend as a boarding ramp/boarding elevator when the Lowari is on the ground. (It can, of course, function as an actual airlock, even though the Lowari almost never does anything in space other than dock to/land in a bay of a larger craft.)
The flight deck is in the same compartment (indicated in green); it sits atop the airlock on a small platform of its own, where the three crew share one long console. It’s accessible by a long gallery leading to stairs on each side of the ship.
The leading edge of the Lowari‘s for’ard compartment, incidentally, is configured as one enormous picture window, because it’s not flying if you can’t enjoy the clouds on takeoff, the beautiful panoramas of space while in orbit, and the sheath of outrageously hot plasma trying to get in and incinerate you all on re-entry. Indulgent pilots may let well-behaved passengers come up and
stand on adhere to the gallery to get a good view once they’re safely in orbit.
The aft compartment (accessible in-flight by doors to port and starboard) is the cargo bay, capable of housing eight or so standard cargo containers or an equivalent amount of breakbulk (including, say, the passengers’ effects). While said effects and suchlike are usually taken off via the bow airlock, there’s a large spacetight cargo door to aft/dorsal to allow large cargo to be loaded and unloaded. In space, this is often done by workpods, and the cargo bay is designed to depressurize for this purpose. (Conveniently, this also lets it serve as a backup airlock, if needed.)
Don’t go to space any other way!
Just to have an idea of size, and taking the difference in shape into account, is it about as big as a large business jet?
I haven’t finished calculating the exact figures yet, but off the top of my head, I’d probably err on the large side of that, somewhere between there and the commercial airliner range. Despite the relatively low passenger capacity, it’s got a lot more necessary-for-space systems to stick in there, and 18,300 m/s dV of even slush hydrogen isn’t exactly small.
(That, and the passengers do like their comforts.)
So it would have to be freaking huge in order to have the kind of passenger capacity of say, a 737?
Pretty huge, yes. It’s not quite as bad as it might seem – many of those space systems don’t need to scale linearly, and a passenger-focused rather than general purpose vehicle would need rather less cargo capacity, proportionately – but still.
This is, though, pretty realistic. Look at, say, the Skylon (planned to carry a 15-tonne payload or 30 passengers, and is 10m longer than a 747 or A380). The _Lowari_ can outperform those with its fancy nuclear-thermal engines, but there ain’t no escaping the mathematics of delta-v or the need to store all that upper-atmosphere-to-orbit remass somewhere.
All of which, I suppose, amounts to “orbit is unrealistically, sic, hard”.