Large passenger ships often economize by providing smaller numbers of larger-capacity lifeboats to meet the evacuation requirements found in Imperial space safety regulations. The Liberator-Class is a bright yellow rounded cylinder shaped like a long cigarette with an undersized chemical rocket making up the tail. It is filled with two rows of hibernation chambers along each side, a narrow central aisle between them. The chambers face forward to minimize the impact of any acceleration. The single door is midships. Next to the door is a single emergency control station adjacent to the engine bulkhead. The engines (or any machinery) are not accessible. There is nothing of interest in the bow of the ship, and the ship has no windows, no artificial gravity, meaningful armor, or weapons. The ship’s exterior is painted with the name of the mothership, the lifeboat number, and the universal symbol for lifeboat.
Each passenger berth is a hibernation berth providing suspended animation. It is designed to be climbed into like an upright coffin with the top half open. Automatic straps hold the passenger against padding and prevent injury. After climbing in, a hatch on a hydraulic arm can be pulled shut from the inside or outside (or via computer control). This leaves passengers a small amount of visibility via a window in front of the face. The berth can also be used temporarily as a coffin-like seat although most people find it unpleasant.
Near the base of each hibernation berth is a container of survival gear for each person. After a crash-landing, three escape hatches can be blown open from the inside to provide other routes of egress if the single cabin door is blocked. One hatch each is on the dorsal, ventral, and bow. There is no airlock. In a rescue, each hibernation berth is detachable. It is designed to be unlatched from the hull and moved to a rescue ship, e.g., in deep space usually by towing along a line in zero gravity to another ship’s airlock.
Loading and Launch Procedure
On a more advanced passenger ship, the ship’s computer has the ability to track all crew and passenger locations at all times. Sometimes this feature is networked with each person’s personal computing device(s) or clothing. During an evacuation the “smart” ship will assign optimized lifeboat berths on-the-fly and direct each person to the nearest berth via personalized messages. These messages can take the form of writing on wall screens, text messages, personalized voice prompts, and even lines drawn on the floor as you walk.
However, in an emergency the computer may be disabled, or the ship may not have these “smart” evac facilities to start with. As a backup (and on simpler craft) each person is assigned a lifeboat number when they embark. On a non-smart ship, if the ship is under capacity unused group lifeboat berths are supposed to be blocked off with pre-made signs labeled “LAUNCH WITH THIS BERTH EMPTY”. A large red handle by the door is marked “LAST ON BOARD PULL LEVER TO LAUNCH.” Other signs read “DO NOT LAUNCH WITHOUT CREW PERMISSION.”
Although this system might work well, in a crisis all sorts of things can go wrong. Each lifeboat is assigned at least one crew member who is supposed to facilitate the evacuation and make any last-minute changes, coordinating by ship’s communicator. The hibernation berth closest to the controls is marked “CREW ONLY” while the rest of the berths say “CREW OR PASSENGER”.
Controls and Automation
This evacuation system is designed as a use-one-then-throw-away spaceship. Rather than normal screens, ports, keyboards, holograms, and/or other interfaces, the single control station has cheap plastic nubs and a few LED lights that provide minimal information, with a tiny rubberized screen. The widespread standardization of this lifeboat design makes for significant automation cost savings (automation is not factored into the price below). With automation present, the control station is intended to never be used. Indeed, there is no chair, just two straps to hold on to. Instead, pulling the bright red launch lever near the door activates an automatic system. This system does the following:
- Gives a launch countdown to give all passengers time to climb into a hibernation berth.
- Closes the door, pressurizes the cabin, and launches the craft.
- It activates a distress beacon.
- The craft then does one of two things:
- If in deep space or a stable orbit, the craft is programmed to thrust to reach a stand-off safe distance of two miles away from the mothership and then brake to a stop.
- If in an unstable orbit or in atmosphere, the craft is programmed to land using the single-use landing system consisting of ablative re-entry shielding and touch-down airbags. (Note that the automated system doesn’t care if the air is breathable or not.)
- Provides periodic audio updates about the progress of the above to all passengers.
- After a pre-set amount of flight time (usually 6 hours), the ship puts all passengers into suspended automation automatically. A life-support reserve exists for a total of 24 hours of air and heat for all passengers, but this can only be accessed via the manual controls.
Engine thrust is provided by solid metallic hydrogen/metastable helium cake fuel suitable for long-term storage with no maintenance.
Econo-Liberator-Class Group Evacuation Lifeboat
LWt.: 100 tons
Load: 0 tons
SM: +6 (100 feet long)
Occ: 0 + 60SV
- Steel Armor dDR 1 (streamlined)
- Habitat, Limited life support (24 hours).
- Soft-Landing System (single-use)
Middle Core: Control Room: Disrated. limited computer (C6), limited sensors (comm/sensor 5), 1 control station.
- Chemical Rocket: 1G acceleration for .25 mps delta-V (disrated)
Rear Core: Fuel Tank (2.5 tons, solid metallic hydrogen/metastable helium cake)
Occupancy: 15 Habitat Modules, each containing 4 x hibernation chambers = 60 occupancy
|Full Tank of Fuel (HEDM metallic hydrogen/metastable helium cake)||.03|
|HEDM Chemical Rocket||.1|