Herein is presented an incredibly useful workhorse of a vehicle, capable of atmospheric as well as interplanetary flight, the sort of thing found flitting around low planet orbit just about anywhere space travel has matured beyond the 'moonshot' level currently enjoyed today in the real world.
The introductory notes, written in a delightful academic review style, as an historian of the development of space-capable vehicles might write, tells of the development of the orbital equivalent of a business jet. This history not only looks at the rationale under which it was designed but has a fascinating tale of how much of the design leaked into 'open source' and how this has, despite the annoyance of the company who developed it, contributed greatly to the Paladin Spaceplane's success!
So, to the Spaceplane itself. Vaguely reminiscent of the real-world Space Shuttle, it can reach orbit from the planetary surface from either a runway or by launch with rocket assist from a gantry, if you are departing from an orbital facility or asteroid it's a lot easier as you do not have such a gravity well to contend with. You will need a runway to land on, if returning to the planetary surface, which some may find limiting.
Normally flown by three people - a mission commander, a pilot and a payload officer - it can be flown solo if equipped with an AI. The flight deck actually accommodates five, so favoured passengers or additional crew can 'sit up front' as desired. The main living area has sleeping space for four as standard (assuming at least one person will be on duty at all times) but can be reconfigured with extra chairs and wall-mounted sleeping bags if more people need to be accommodated. In back there's a cargo space, complete with controls for operation of a 'cargo arm' (did I say this thing looks like the Space Shuttle?).
In some ways it is quite a primitive ride. As well as basic sleeping facilities, there is only one lavatory, which operates in anything from microgravity to a 1g field. Likewise, space suits are not normally carried, if there is a catastrophic loss of pressure 'rescue balls' will have to suffice. You also have to walk through the cargo bay from the main living area to reach the single airlock exit. No doubt, given the proliferation of open source modifications available, someone has produced a luxury version for the wealthy who require orbital transportation!
It is a well-presented and useful vessel that can be employed in a range of roles and settings, even if you are not using the OpenD6 ruleset. Worth keeping to hand if your game involves space-faring from the real-world 21st century on...
Return to The Paladin Spaceplane page.
Reviewed: 7 February 2011