The Long Result Peter Elson

Spherical Space Ships

In science fiction we have seen lots of spherical space ships. We remember the ships used by the Space Vikings by H. Beam Piper and the Death Star from Star Wars and the Heart of Gold from the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the ship from E.T. and the Borg Sphere from Star Trek: First Contact and lots of more.

Space Viking - Mercenary Cruiser
Image from Project Gutenberg. Copyright expired.

In Traveller we have the Mercenary Cruiser and the Tigress class. We all know that the Mercenary Cruiser is supposed to be able to land. But in Traveller it cannot do that since it is only partially streamlined and the rules say that it then cannot land. I think it should be able to land under certain conditions. These conditions might be a slow decent and no flying in the atmosphere. For a quick assault, the cutters would still be needed.

Some pretty pictures of the Mercenary Cruiser:

Some pretty pictures of the Tigress:

Peter Elson, who has painted a lot of the images for TTA (that we love) has also made a spherical ship. This ship is also able to land in an atmosphere.

The Long Result by Peter Elson.
The Long Result by Peter Elson.
Posted by permission of the estate of Peter Elson.
© Peter Elson.

13 thoughts on “Spherical Space Ships”

  1. In Book 2: Starships, the Mercenary Cruiser was streamlined and could land on a world.

    I think a logical compromise would be for the Merc to have both of her cutters deployed in order to land on any world. This design facet could be due to the length of the cutters as they might protrude slightly from the cutter bay and be damaged during a landing.

    Having both boats deployed would also make sense from a tactical standpoint as it would; a) allow the Merc more firepower and b) create more targets for an enemy to shoot at.

  2. As you are aware, the Mercenary Cruiser is a direct lift (no pun intended) from Piper, just adjusted to a small ship universe. In Piper’s books, they were round because they had their pseudo-grav source in the center, implying that people walk with their heads faced aft… of course that could be an area for cargo, in order to help make landing maneuvers smoother.

    Those big spherical ships did land on planets in Piper’s works, see the beginning of Four Day Planet for a description of the procedure. Piper figured – in my opinion, correctly – that streamlining does not matter terribly for planetary landing maneuvers if you got contragrav. Just ease ‘er down gently.

  3. In MgT any ship can land on any world. They all have grav drive and can descent as slow as needed. Some ships with diffused structure are dangerous to land. However I prefer the 21st Cent rules over the mid-20th Cent version. GDW was too pedestrian in their vision.

  4. In my opinion, no rules has been perfect. But the ones I have used the most is CT Book-5. Since we cannot really say anything about gravitics yet, the only thing that seems really outdated is the computers and the strange fuel-consumption.

  5. For warships, spheres are great defense: 1} you present the smallest possible target per unit volume from all aspects, 2} less mass of armor covers a sphere to a given thickness, 3} less mass per protection factor gives greater agility.

    For warships, wedges are good offense — as long as your axis is pointed at the enemy, nearly 100% of your weapons can bear, armor can be angled, and closing with the enemy while having them weapons-locked is a plus. More surface area is more area for radiators, sensors, and antennas.

  6. You’ve missed out Paul Berna’s book “Threshold Of The Stars” (1954) which is about a kid growing up at a space agency in France where his father is part of a team developing spherical spaceships. Google the title and you’ll get pictures of the front cover. It’s one of the first sci-fi books I read and I wish I could find my copy now.

    Not having read all Piper’s works, I don’t know when he came up with his spherical ships, but Space Viking was published from 1962 so Berna was ahead of him on that one.

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