Of course, what I didn’t establish in the previous posting is exactly where the Empress Eledíë-class fits into the line-up of starship classes used by the Imperial Exploratory Service, so that I shall expand upon in this post. The short answer is: basically, pretty much in the middle, in what we might call the “cruiser-weight” classes.
Now, it’s somewhat harder than it might otherwise be to list all the classes the IES uses, because they’re big believers in the philosophy of modular design and assemble a lot of specialized starships of one-off classes from parts when there’s a mission requirement (like, say, Sniffer Packet), or even a mission convenience, to do so. But if one excludes those, a list of the most commonly used classes would read something like this, smallest to largest:
Clairvoyance-class far horizon probe
Which, as starwisps, are accompanied, naturally, by the previously described Lucifer VI-class starwisp tenders. The far horizon probes are tiny, solid-state AI craft whose job is to be the real “first in” explorers to any given star system, working beyond the boundaries of the stargate plexus, out in the Outback, looking for interesting systems to poke around in.
Inquisity-class planetary exploration vehicle
Vertiginous-class planetary exploration vehicle
The lineal descendants of the rovers and robots that did the first planetary exploration way back in the heyday of the first Spaceflight Initiative, like Wayseeker, the planetary exploration vehicles carry out similar missions of groundside investigation even today.
There are two distinct classes of PEV for two distinct types of planets: the rather more common Inquisity-class drives along the ground (or occasionally floats) for investigating those planets that have ground. The Vertiginous-class, contrariwise, flies throughout its mission, for investigating those planets that really don’t.
Aval Cyprium-class microscout
The chosen vessel of first-in scouts, the Aval Cyprium-class (named after famous historical explorers, starting with the one who found the Edgestorm the hard way) is a single/double-person landing-capable starship found flooding into newly opened constellations and chasing reports of anomalies all over the Worlds for the IES, doing preliminary investigations and figuring out if there’s need for follow-up and, if so, of what kind.
The bigger cousin of the Aval Cyprium, similarly landing-capable but with a crew of a dozen and a replaceable laboratory module that can be swapped out to suit the requirements of the mission specialists aboard, the Peregrine is the “little workhorse” of the IES, doing a lot of those follow-up investigations and much of the general work of exploration and survey. When doing a whole-system or multiple-system workup, several of these will often accompany a –
Empress Eledíë-class explorer
As described here. This is the first “cruiser-weight”, as you might put it, vessel of the IES. It’s the “big workhorse”, the dedicated exploration vessel that takes lead in going where no sophont but a first-in scout has gone before, and turns their notes on what a system is like into a complete, detailed, scrupulously accurate work-up suitable for inclusion in the Repository of All Knowledge.
It also serves as the go-to craft for any large exploration missions of virtually any profile. It’s flexible and modular enough to support a wide range of roles, so when something needs investigated on a large enough scale that you can’t fit the mission profile or the mission specialists into a Peregrine, you send for an Empress Eledíë.
The second of the cruiser-weights, the Chatelaine-class is a specialized variant of the Empress Eledíë used by the IES’s sister organization, the Imperial Grand Survey, whose job rather than pushing into and exploring the unknown is comprehensively cataloging and checking on the known, and maintaining the essential infrastructure that keeps the known known.
(Less respectful IES personnel sometimes deride the IGS as being naught but a bunch of asteroid-counters and beacon-fixers. The IGS responds that it’s all very well going off and having adventures, but if you want to be able to find your way home and be sure that it hasn’t been smacked by an errant comet in the meantime, thank them.)
Calria Adae-class establisher (DSOV)
The third, the Calria Adae-class (named after the first soph on one of Eliéra’s moons), looks very much like a miniature colony ship, because it is. When the IES needs to plant a hab (bigger, obviously, than an inflatable temp) or a planetside outpost somewhere for long-term studies to be carried out, these are the starships that do that.
Hello, World-class contact cruiser
And the fourth of these, the Hello, World-class, is a specially dedicated vessel for the task of making First Contact with New Life and New Civilizations. It has more in common with the IN’s cruisers than most IES starships – hence its designation – because, sadly, experience teaches that sometimes, things don’t go smooth.
(Not necessarily meaning hostile aliens, of course. Sometimes it just means having to shoot down a whole bunch of ICBMs because anything appearing in the sky is obviously a secret weapon of their local planetary enemy of the day. Eye roll obligatory.)
Sung Iliastren-class mobile research base
The really, really big one, for when they need to science the shit out of something in a hurry, the Sung Iliastren-class (named after the natural philosopher who basically invented the scientific method thereabouts) is a dreadnought- or even superdreadnought-sized agglomeration of laboratories, supercomputing centers, and other science-oriented facilities with a suitably large propulsion bus stuck on the end.
When you need an entire research institute somewhere in a hurry, this is what you call for. After serious budget approval.
(In some particularly interesting locations, there are very permanent-looking research stations that are actually one of these covered in a couple of centuries’ accumulation of add-on modules and temps.)